Thousands of ‘chain gang’ prisoners are to spruce up roads, beaches and beauty spots in a spring cleaning blitz under the government’s “community payback” scheme.
Offenders convicted of theft, assaults and criminal damage will be put to work in high-visibility vests and spend more than 10,000 hours clearing litter, scrubbing graffiti-ridden subways and tidying around 300 areas across the country in the first major co-ordinated project of its kind.
The work – part of Keep Britain Tidy’s annual Spring clean – is the biggest example yet of the Government’s new tougher and highly visible community punishments. These are designed to end the perception that they are a “soft touch” that “let off” offenders from their crimes.
Ministers believe too many judges and courts have lost confidence in community sentences and are left with no alternative but to send minor offenders to jail on short jail sentences that can lead to a cycle of petty crime without effective rehabilitation.
Instead, they want “justice to be seen to be done.” Weeks after the plan was unveiled Boris Johnson promised more “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs” so criminals can visibly pay their debt to society – leaving aides forced to clarify that offenders would not be literally shackled.
Policing and Crime Minister, Kit Malthouse, who visited a church in Hampshire yesterday to see offenders working to improve the surrounding, said: “To criminals, there are few stronger deterrents than a community that is able to take pride in their area. Safe neighbourhoods attract jobs and investment and let people thrive, free from crime.
“Getting offenders to pay for their crimes in a way that visibly benefits the community they have harmed is critical to making them think twice about tormenting their fellow citizens.
“Offenders are involved in community projects around the country every day, and next week, to support this year’s Great British Spring Clean, we are mobilising more than a thousand to give criminals a chance to clean up their act, payback our communities and show that justice is being done.”
Other projects in the week-long clean-up include litter-picks on some of Wales’ most beautiful blue flag beaches in Anglesey and Dyfed Powys alongside tackling fly-tipped eyesores in Newham, London.