Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Community Service.

I have briefly mentioned my love of community service, but never in detail. Basically, I think that integrating the concept and practice of community service within a society is one of the great goals for any culture. I'm completely against conscription, such as found in Germany, since I view it as a total violation of a person's freedom. That's not to say that government shouldn't encourage community service through tax credits, organizations, and publicly recognized awards for the dedicated.

Just imagine, a department of community service where organizations, be they clean-up crews, churches, or Habitat for Humanity, sign up at the department and people who want to volunteer can either be sent where they're needed or pick what they want. The department than makes sure to advertise the benefits of volunteering and hosts parties, picnics, and other events to draw people in. It could be a place to meet friends, find dates, earn tax credits, hang out, get free food, and otherwise have a social and productive life when you're feeling bored.

I also see community service as the primary form of punishment for criminals. Incarceration doesn't work; two-thirds of criminals end up back in jail. Simply locking them up achieves no social good. If prison achieves no social good and the majority of criminals are not rehabilitated, what can be done?

I argue CS. It forces criminals into the world, where they learn social skills with otherwise upstanding people. They're out building and doing instead of hiding in bars or alleys with criminal friends. I don't want to sound too much like Big Brother, but it indoctrinates the criminal into the concept of an upstanding life. It draws a social good from their punishment, gives the criminal freedom and a life, and reduces the currently crippling prison load.

Let's use a drunk driver as an example. In Rhode Island, a drunk driver loses their license. Not a very good option since, unlike a city or a state with a better public transit system, a person in RI needs a car to survive. Imagine, instead, that the person gets 2,000 hours of CS. That's a full time job for a year. Combined with a real job, that person would have no time to drink and drive. They'd be too busy working. Yes, it would be difficult, but I imagine anyone with a brain would choose that over losing their license or going to jail. And frankly, they don't have the choice. They drank and drove. It's now the society's prerogative to punish and derive something good from something bad. That good can be CS.

Only the very worst criminals are incarcerated, which is as it should be. Prison does not rehabilitate and it serves no good, so it must be seen only as storage for those too dangerous to be roaming freely.

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