Hull’s guinea pig experiment is not good for offenders or taxpayers

July 27, 2012 2:43 PM

Hull’s community safety organisation, Citysafe, is demanding £29,000 from the Humberside Police Authority to fund an experiment which could see drunken troublemakers given free gym passes. Not only is it unfair that taxpayers’ money is being gambled on an uncertainty but by creating perverse incentives it’s also potentially harmful – both to the respective individual and society.

The rationale behind the experiment is that funding the scheme diverts people’s attention away from alcohol and towards sporting activities. As Vicky Harris, head of substance misuse and offender health at Citysafe, says: “[…] Instead of spending their days drinking and offending, they replace that with a natural high”.

There is no doubt that Hull is at war with alcohol. Indeed, between April and June, the equivalent of just over three violent crimes was committed per day which was fueled by alcohol. But is squandering £29,000 on an uncertainty the way to solve this issue? And will the £41,000 also being requested to fund two alcohol workers at every court and police station make things any better?"

Not only is the result of the scheme uncertain, but it could also backfire. Perverse incentives can easily promote unintended and undesirable consequences. By funding the scheme, the person in question must be continually incentivised with the gym scheme for the supposed lack of offending to last. But as the scheme itself is only a short trial, the benefit is also short-lived. The person in question, who is supposedly addicted to a “natural high”, will return back to a life of alcohol and crime to get his/her short-term gratification. The only logical way out of the dilemma is to continually provide gym sessions for free for the given person. But that merely holds the taxpayer to ransom.

Hull Citysafe should be encouraging people to do good for good’s sake. What is more replacing one high with another isn’t a long-term solution. People need to be weaned off their appetite for “highs” rather than throwing money at ridiculous schemes like this.

The scheme also sends out a provocative message; it outwardly proclaims that bad behaviour will be rewarded while good behaviour will be ignored. It is unsurprising that many commenters on the article have expressed their views along these lines. One of them remarked: “Wish I could afford the luxury of a gym pass. I’ve got an idea, get smashed and bob’s your uncle”. Another says: “[…] Give a reward for bad behaviour!!! Get with the real world Hull City Council […]”.

This scheme is a cause for major concern and should be immediately reviewed. Taxpayers deserve much better than this.Hull’s community safety organisation, Citysafe, is demanding £29,000 from the Humberside Police Authority to fund an experiment which could see drunken troublemakers given free gym passes. Not only is it unfair that taxpayers’ money is being gambled on an uncertainty but by creating perverse incentives it’s also potentially harmful – both to the respective individual and society.

The rationale behind the experiment is that funding the scheme diverts people’s attention away from alcohol and towards sporting activities. As Vicky Harris, head of substance misuse and offender health at Citysafe, says: “[…] Instead of spending their days drinking and offending, they replace that with a natural high”.

There is no doubt that Hull is at war with alcohol. Indeed, between April and June, the equivalent of just over three violent crimes was committed per day which was fueled by alcohol. But is squandering £29,000 on an uncertainty the way to solve this issue? And will the £41,000 also being requested to fund two alcohol workers at every court and police station make things any better?"

Not only is the result of the scheme uncertain, but it could also backfire. Perverse incentives can easily promote unintended and undesirable consequences. By funding the scheme, the person in question must be continually incentivised with the gym scheme for the supposed lack of offending to last. But as the scheme itself is only a short trial, the benefit is also short-lived. The person in question, who is supposedly addicted to a “natural high”, will return back to a life of alcohol and crime to get his/her short-term gratification. The only logical way out of the dilemma is to continually provide gym sessions for free for the given person. But that merely holds the taxpayer to ransom.

Hull Citysafe should be encouraging people to do good for good’s sake. What is more replacing one high with another isn’t a long-term solution. People need to be weaned off their appetite for “highs” rather than throwing money at ridiculous schemes like this.

The scheme also sends out a provocative message; it outwardly proclaims that bad behaviour will be rewarded while good behaviour will be ignored. It is unsurprising that many commenters on the article have expressed their views along these lines. One of them remarked: “Wish I could afford the luxury of a gym pass. I’ve got an idea, get smashed and bob’s your uncle”. Another says: “[…] Give a reward for bad behaviour!!! Get with the real world Hull City Council […]”.

This scheme is a cause for major concern and should be immediately reviewed. Taxpayers deserve much better than this.

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