Leading article: The pleasures of punishment

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The Independent Online
Weary of pursuing prostitutes to no avail, the Vice Squad at the San Francisco Police Department have come up with a new plan. If you can't stop the Toms, try the Johns. But what to do with these hoards of dirty old - and young - men? The prisons are brimming, the fines ineffective, and community service rarely enforced. So San Francisco is subjecting them all to six hours of lectures from do-gooders. Deterrent indeed. A latter-day form of school detention for adults.

These libido-driven kerb crawlers must sit and listen to former prostitutes, social workers and police officers explaining the risks and consequences of their behaviour. To finish the day, they can get counselling on sex addiction (presumably with the San Franciscan chapter of Libidos Anonymous).

But the project is no soft option. Compared to community service in the sun, several hours listening to the worthies of the world drone on is a tough medicine. The plan, presumably, is to bore prostitution's customers off the streets.

There is a logic to this kind of justice; punters in search of urgent physical stimulation are subjected to mental asphyxiation instead. Clamping the cars of parking offenders follows a similar pattern. Drivers stopping on double yellow lines for their convenience and planning to stay five minutes are forced to stay there for hours and hours waiting to be released.

Perhaps we should go further. Teenagers subjecting their neighbours to rampant noise pollution could undergo counselling for rave addiction and 120 hours soothing sing-a-long with Des O'Connor. Male bosses who harass their female staff would have to walk naked through a hen night. And speeding drivers with flash cars could be condemned to travel to work for a month in a Sinclair C5. As for the woman who took her children late to school for two months; she could be sentenced to test alarm clocks for a living.

As the Mikado said, "Let the punishment fit the crime; and make each prisoner pent, unwillingly represent, A source of innocent merriment."

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