Coming soon to a TV near you? Punishment Idol

Continuing the trend that everything should be subjected to a reality TV show style voting programs, comes the latest offering from the government – a chance to decide what sort of community service local felons should be ordered to carry out.

punishment idolTo increase visibility so that you can be sure that the naughty people are doing their work, they will wear hi-visibility jackets when in the community – although when I saw photos of some recently, I was unable to tell the difference between a criminal and your average builder, as the jackets were almost identical. Frankly, the idea of hi-vis jackets sounded like silly political posturing than being of any practical use.

Anyhow, back to the voting bit – you can go to the Community Payback website and select your local area and from that vote on a short-list of local venues in dire need of improvement works.

Where I live in Tower Hamlets, we have five exciting options from clearing a local park, to painting local amenities or cleaning up rubbish from local street markets. If you live in an area which is not covered by this new Punishment Idol project, you can even nominate community projects. Is that voting on voting?

While I support community service as form a punishment, especially for those who are unable to pay fines, or for whom a fine could only be afforded by committing more crime – I am very uncomfortable with the idea of letting the rest of us vote on the punishments as if it is just a version of Pop Idol. That seems to belittle the justice system which I feel should stand somewhat aloof from the “masses” to remain impartial and fair.

Mob rule justice is never a pretty sight.

Voting ends on 24 April 2009 at midnight. The winners (is that really an appropriate term?) will be announced in early June.

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