September 7th 2011 – Weeding an old peoples home

20 Sep

I had been given a date to go see my probation officer who ended up not being there when I arrived for my meeting and so was met by someone else who spent half an hour getting me to sign forms and then arranged my first day of unpaid work which would be September 7th. I was told that I should arrive at 9am and stand round the back.

I arrived at 9am to a small crowd of adidas and knock off burberry not the usual crowd I would stand around with if I’m honest. At 9:15am we are lead into a waiting room where we give our names pick up so old stinking steel toecap boot and then wait. All everyone is talking about is how many hours they each have left to serve and how much they hate doing this every week. After about 45 minutes we are finally put into small groups of between 6 and 8 and then handed orange jackets with “Community payback” written in big letters on the back.  It is impossible not to feel like a lesser person when in this situation. I couldn’t believe hat woodcarving had landed me in what felt like a school detention. Being talked down to as if you were a complete idiot. It made me feel quite angry. Why should my supposed crime make me a moron? Just because I somehow ran afoul of the law does that automatically mean I’m an uneducated delinquent? Steven Fry went to jail and he’s a nation treasure! Anyway all this aside we are then piled into vans laden with tools and we’re on the road. At this point none of us know what it is we’re going to be doing or where. We arrive half an hour later (about 10:30am) at an old people home we unload the van and then are walked around to a little staff area where we are given tea and aloud to smoke if we so wish. Here we sit with our one community officers who is also drinking tea and reading the Sun for another half an hour. We finally start work just after 11am. The officer is pretty vague about what it is the 8 of us are supposed to be doing. “Get rid of weed and that” is the only real direction we are given. So I get on my hands and knees and start pulling up the unwanted flora. One young guy has already lost interest and is idly hacking at an old tree with a set of garden shears. One or two of the other lads seem to be working relatively hard and everyone else just seems to be stood staring into space. Then it starts to rain. Not heavily just a light spit and instantly all tools are dropped without as much as a word said and everyone heads back for the staff room. I kneel up to see the community officer gesturing to me to follow. I do and we sit inside for another hour drinking tea while the light rain passes (it is at this point interesting to note that the light rain that obviously was unworkable in didn’t stop anyone including the officer from going outside for a smoke). We go back outside and carry on for about 20 minutes before it is apparently time for lunch. So back inside for another hour to eat the food we have been told to bring with us and also the home made soup that the people at the old folks home have made for us. At just after 1pm we head back outside to do some more work. So far even with 8 people it’s impossible to see if any work has actually been done at all. We carry on as before for about another hour when suddenly there is a yelp from over by a bush after the commotion has settled it is apparent that one man has upset a bee’s nest and has been stung twice on the back of the head. He is told to sit down which he does for 10 minutes or so before a decisions is made that he must be taken to hospital so we all pack up the van leave all the dug up weed all over the ground so that in fact the old people home looks in a worse state than it did when we arrived and head for the general infirmary.  Some people get dropped off near there houses on the way to hospital but are told that they will not be able to count an hour or so as worked if they don’t stay, this doesn’t seem to stop many of them so most leave. We get to the hospital and the man goes in three of us and the officer sit in the van and wait when it get to 3:50pm we are told we can go and given a little green slip to say we have done 7.15 hours work for the community. Hang on a minute! How is that right we have done barely 3 hours work and in those 3 hours actually made the place look worse. I walk home feeling perplexed and wondering if what I had just experienced was a typical day of community service as it turned out by next week things got even more ridicules.

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One Response to “September 7th 2011 – Weeding an old peoples home”

  1. Praxis September 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Regardless of what this punishment is called, it is important that the PURPOSE is clearly defined and communicated in a way that everyone involved can understand and work toward.
    It seems to me there is a mismatch of expectations here which is mostly down to lack of shared understanding.
    That said, this is a fascinating insight into our justice system. I look forward to further instalments.

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