Those Orange Vests

Participants with Bronx Community Solutions own service program, "Crew 1" usually wear orange safety vests. We find that they're useful for safety, supervision, and most importantly for making community justice visible - so people can see that offenders are "paying back" in their own neighborhood.

Apparently jurisdictions in Great Britain are introducing the practice (starting today) and it has both vocal supporters and detractors. UPI has now picked the story up:

"Brits get bibs for community service"

LONDON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The British Ministry of Justice said criminals sentenced to perform community service will be required to wear identifying orange bibs starting Monday.

Officials said the high visibility bibs, which will be required for convicts performing physical labor, will bear the words "community payback" on the front and back to make clear to the public that they are performing court-ordered service hours, The Times of London reported Friday.

"We will be launching the jackets on Monday. We agree with the public, who strongly believe that justice must be done, but also seen to be done," the Ministry of Justice said in a statement.

The new community payback uniforms were recommended by Louise Casey, the former head of the British government's Respect Task Force, as part of a plan to boost public confidence in the British justice system.

However, the move was sharply criticized by the National Association of Probation Officers, which said the identifying bibs would leave the convicts open to vigilante attacks.

"NAPO believes that making the individuals more prominent will increase the risk of violent attacks and provocation," the association said in a statement. "In addition, negative reaction by individuals forced to wear the labeled clothing may lead to either aggressive responses to the requirement or refusal to work."

Here's coverage on the BBC.

Here's an editorial in the Gaurdian.

And an article in the Herald & Post.

I asked a few folks with experience supervising offenders performing community service what they thought. Have a look at their opinions in the comments section of this post.


M. Larino said…
I feel our vests are identifying enough not only for the crew supervisors but for the general public as well. Adding a statement to the front and back of the vest adds a level of degradation to the wearer whom is already attempting to serve their community service sentence. While I don't believe it will cause random attacks on our participants by vigilantes, I do think it would upset our participants and since some look for any excuse not to serve their sentence, its seems counterproductive to add any comments to our vests.
Anonymous said…
I think it's very interesting. I think there is nothing wrong with wearing an orange "bib".

In my experienced as a crew supervisor for community service in the Bronx, the logo "Pay-Back" is not a good idea. I think it will bring conflicts with people passing by, they will call them names, and so on.

Community service, what is community service? It is for low-level crime like something that doesn't require jail time. Instead get them involved in their community by putting a different name on the "bib".

-Ramon Semorile
Anonymous said…
It's not so much that I disagree with the idea of wearing a vest. It's more about what the vest represents. 1st, I don't believe that everyone who gets arrested is a criminal or is in any criminal activities. 2nd, I believe that punishment should be a learning experience. Marking them and calling the attention of the public it might bring conflict with some people walking by and making fun of then. I personally have seen that in our Community Service site, at Bronx Community Solutions. Some of them might not want to do the community service because of the vest. Also people make a mistake and we don't have the right to judge or treat them wrong.

Sometime you will be surprised, what a word of encouragement and a BCS vest can do to a client, though!

-Moises Reyes
Anonymous said…
Seattle Community Court participants wear orange vests with the words "Seattle Community Court- Investing in our Community". Each morning, participants are greeted by our AmeriCorps team community service monitors. We purposely operate in an environment of mutual respect, telling defendants that we are there to help them to keep their agreement with the court and not return to jail. We explain that the vests will not only insure safety, but allow them
advantages. Some of the businesses offer free beverages, others use of the restrooms. Traffic generally yields to the crews, and they are first in line at the lunch site. By supporting participants with this approach, we have had no complaints about the orange vests!

-Stephanie Tschida