Not Saussure

February 21, 2007

What do you do with a recidivist?

Filed under: Law, Mental Health — notsaussure @ 9:59 pm

Chap in the Crown Court yesterday for shoplifting £13-odd worth of groceries from a large supermarket. He’d pleaded not guilty and elected for a trial, as is his right, despite being clearly guilty — two members of staff saw him sticking the goods into a carrier, walking out past an un-manned till and making no attempt to pay, and leaving the store. He claimed he’d paid, though he had, of course, no receipt and no idea who he paid (‘a lady… can’t remember what she looked like’).

Turns out the chap is clearly suffering from some sort of psychiatric problems and he’s a thoroughgoing nuisance. He’s of no fixed abode — from choice, since he’s had several places in hostels arranged and just not turned up to take them — and has no income whatsoever. He’s spent most of the last five years in prison, serving short terms (a few months at a time) for shoplifting and minor assaults.

Unusually, neither drink nor drugs seem to be much of an issue — he just supports himself by shoplifting for a few weeks after his release from prison until he’s arrested again, is either refused bail or breaks his bail conditions by refusing to stay at a bail hostel, and eventually turns up in court. He’s obviously twigged that maintaining a not-guilty plea is his best policy, since remand prisoners enjoy various privileges denied to serving prisoners and, despite losing the discount for a guilty plea, the time he spends on remand means he’s out again in a few weeks anyway since there’s a limit to how long a court will give someone for stealing £10 or £20’s worth of groceries.

He’s now been warned that his sentences will go up each time he re-appears, but prison’s clearly no deterrent (he seems to prefer it to life outside, if anything) and I’ve got visions of him eventually being given 10 years for stealing a few pounds’ worth of stuff.

What do with such a person, though? It’s easy to say he needs help, but he clearly doesn’t want it. You can’t leave him wandering around helping himself from shops, but prison clearly isn’t doing much good. Probably is the only place for him, but it seems an awfully expensive solution.

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  1. A moderately secure psychiatric hospital, perhaps?

    Comment by rainmanlite — February 22, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

  2. I don’t think there are any grounds to hold him, though. I’m not sure if he’s had any psychiatric reports but he’s clearly fit to plead and doesn’t present any danger to himself or others; the court did ask the prison where he’s been on remand if they had anything to report on those lines, but he’s apparently perfectly well-behaved inside. He’s just a confounded nuisance when he’s free.

    And, it has to be said, it’s difficult enough to find places in secure units for people who clearly do need treatment.

    Comment by notsaussure — February 22, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

  3. Let him get on with it. He’s not seriously hurting anyone, although I can’t say that for certain as I’m unsure what a minor assault is.

    Comment by . — February 22, 2007 @ 7:30 pm

  4. I’m wondering why he views hostels less favourably than prison. Surely they both feed and house him for nothing, and he’s less free in prison.

    So what does he want that he does not get in the hostel?

    Or is there no logic to his behaviour? Or perhaps none that we can grasp?

    Best regards

    Comment by Nigel Sedgwick — February 22, 2007 @ 7:42 pm

  5. Obsolete, I don’t know the details of the chap’s convictions for common assault, but you can get an idea of the sort of thing that gets thus charged here — essentially, anything that doesn’t cause something more serious than a few bruises (though it could be less than that, of course).

    I don’t know about letting him get on with it; are you suggesting everyone should be able to help themselves from supermarkets, or only homeless loonies, or what?

    Nigel — I just don’t understand the logic to his behaviour.      Some people, I know, can’t function outside the prison environment — they come to depend on people making all their decisions for them.    All I know about this guy is that when he does get bailed to a hostel, he just doesn’t go anywhere near the place and, instead, sleeps rough until the police pick him up again.     He doesn’t even try to leave town. 

    Comment by notsaussure — February 22, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

  6. God, you had to come out and be logical about it. My thoughts would be that if he hasn’t a psychiatric evaulation, that he’d obviously should, although I would assume that he already would have. My next step would perhaps be to suggest cognitive behavioural therapy.

    Other than that, obviously everyone shouldn’t be allowed to help themselves from supermarkets, but he’s getting caught, and if he wants to spend his life in and out of prison while not greatly hurting anyone but consuming a decent amount of taxpayer’s money through being a bum, then that’s up to him. Is there much more you can do?

    Comment by . — February 23, 2007 @ 12:04 am

  7. […] Example 1: the freeloader. […]

    Pingback by The Select Society » Blog Archive » Recidivism and Repentance — February 23, 2007 @ 2:21 pm

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