Today’s Opinion: “Community service”

POSTED: 03/6/11 10:05 PM

Young convicts enjoy doing community service up to a point. That’s the conclusion of research conducted by the Bongers Institute for criminology and the Legal science Faculty of the Amsterdam University. The young criminals mention “a relaxed atmosphere and an interesting place of work” as the upsides of community service.

The picture in the Telegraaf that accompanies the story about this research shows three guys who are apparently cleaning up a neighborhood. One of the youngsters is peeking inside a house, giving the impression that he is laying the groundwork for his next burglary.

This makes us wonder about what the youngsters mean by “an interesting work place.” They also told researchers that they like the nature and the variance in their work.

Before law abiding citizens get a fit: there are also things the young convicts do not like about community service. Doing the job on Saturdays for instance, or having to do boring work. What hurts them most is when they have to do community service in their own neighborhood where they are recognized.

Community service will by necessity become a tool the local justice system will have to use more often in the near future. That’s because the prison is full and because the courts no longer accept lengthy stays in a police cell, even though the police station in Philipsburg has just inaugurated its new block of cells.

This means that suspects are ordered to move to the Pointe Blanche prison within a certain time frame – usually a couple of days. If that is not possible, the suspects have to be released.

It stands to reason to expect that this situation will also have an effect on future verdicts. After all, if it is not possible to lock up someone who has just been found guilty of a crime, sending him home and wishing him a nice day is not an option that will satisfy law-abiding citizens.

Therefore, we may expect increased activity on the community service front. And let’s be honest with each other here, there is plenty of community service to be done.

We suggest that the system makes community service capability available to local environmental groups, and that they get the means at their disposal to do something about the car wrecks that are littering the island.

It’s just one example of how it is possible to turn a bad situation (too much crime) into something positive for our community.

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