Thursday, 8 May 2008

Do As I Say.

Police are being urged to ‘harass young thugs’ today. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is suggesting that people who display anti-social behaviour should be given the same treatment with the state giving repeated home visits and checking that they have paid their road tax, television license, council tax etc. Presumably this policy is based on the concept of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, forgetting that actions committed at an institutional level are usually reflected in social behaviour at lower levels.

From a different perspective, if the state has the money and resources to commit people and time to this sort of state harassment, why does it not use it to address why people behave in anti-social ways in the first place? Why not spend this money giving support to poverty-stricken families, which are associated with this type of behaviour; providing community resources that give alternatives to this behaviour? What good does checking whether a poor family have paid their council tax actually do? (In Scotland at least) all that will happen is a fine, and the family will owe more unpaid debt. Yes, very effective.

[ETA: It might seem simplistic to assume that all anti-social behaviour is caused by the poor- I think we might want to problematise this- but, the nature of this discussion by Jacqui Smith makes this assumption. Presumably, checking council tax payment or benefit fraud would be less of a threat to employed, middle-class 'thugs'.]

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