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Posts Tagged ‘non-state agencies’

“In keeping with these developments, probationers have been subject  to a growing range of penal controls. During the 1950s, probation involved the offender occasionally meeting with, and reporting to, his or her probation officer, and being bound by the general conditions of probation orders, as well as, no doubt, being subject to a variety of informal local controls. Today, however, many probationers, in addition to the purview and surveillance of a probation officer, and through the more specific and specialized community-correctional conditions of probation orders, encounter members of the Salvation Army and John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies, as well as the numerous church, business, native, and other community groups and volunteers charged with penal processing. It is difficult to conceive that the growth of the Ministry of Correctional Services’ community satellites has not entailed the evolution of increasingly pervasive models of penal control.
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Ominous tendencies are…evident in the case of community service orders. They, too, increase the range and intensity of formal conditions of probation. Yet the program has ideological appeal across the political spectrum. Within corrections, it enjoys the support of judges, correctional officials, and numerous private-sector groups who have become involved in the provision of community-service-order programs in Ontario. Much of the appeal of community service orders derives from their perceived reparative effects. But, as Axon has observed in her study of community service orders in Canada, what Community [Service] is, in fact, is unpaid work done by the offender in the community. Whether or not this unpaid labour constitutes reparation is another matter entirely.’

The appeal of community service orders – as with community corrections more generally – also derives from their emphasis on community. As Stanley Cohen has observed, the word ‘community’ is not only ‘rich in symbolic power, but it lacks any negative connotations.’ Different, competing, and even contradictory assumptions can be brought together under the ambiguous concept of community. Leaving aside the problematic issue of how ‘community’ should be define, the extent to which offenders are members of the community that benefits from their own unpaid labour is doubtful. Studies of community service orders in Ontario, and in Canada more generally, suggest that those subject to the program are often young, unemployed males, who are first-time offenders, do not belong to clubs or organizations, and have had ‘poor education with few prospects of obtaining anything but ‘dead end’ jobs” (Axon). What would be the benefit to these offenders, it seems, are better opportunities to become members of the community’s paid labour force, rather than being subjected to forced labour.

At the same time, one segment of the wider community has clearly benefited from, and been remunerated through, community service orders: private-sector groups have derived financial as well as ideological benefits from the development of programs. They pressured the Ministry of Correctional Services to develop community-service-order programs and to make contracts with them for operating the programs. Following from this, community service orders have more to provide jobs for those affiliated with the John Howard Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society, the Salvation Army, and other groups, than for offenders. In the process, the incomes of these groups increased. They and their quasi-civil service staff benefited from the perception that community service orders ‘helped humanize the correctional system while providing them with worthwhile jobs (Menzies). In a variety of ways, and similarly to the situation of community-service-order programs elsewhere, ‘in reality, the service which the offender gives is not to an abstract ‘community’ but rather to those agencies and individuals who are willing to be involved with offenders’. (Axon) Overall, community service orders strengthen the net of penal control not only by formally extending probation conditions, but also in expanding the range of non-state agencies becoming involved in – an financially dependent on – the exercise of control.”

– Maeve W. McMahon, The Persistent Prison? Rethinking Decarceration and Penal Reform. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. pp. 120-122.

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