The Government has today launched its scheme to make offenders sentenced to community service wear orange bibs.
It says that the aim of the scheme is not to humiliate those wearing them but merely to make the punishment “visible”.
The bibs themselves are bright orange and carry the words ‘Community Payback’.
Some groups have argued that marking offenders out in this way could lead to attacks by vigilantes.
However, orange high visibility vests are also worn by a number of other professions.
The following all wear/have worn orange coloured bibs as part of their work dress:
- Motorway maintenance teams
- Vehicle rescue & recovery teams
- Big Issue Sellers – In 2004, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police introduced orange bibs for sellers of the magazine, which benefits homeless people
- Rail workers
Is it possible that they could be misidentified as criminals?
Admittedly, there’s a lot to be said for context; a person seen in a high vis orange vest in the middle of a city probably isn’t mending the railways.
But very often the great British public do not look that closely into things.
The paedophile/paediatrician mix-up of 2000 is a prime example.
Even if that risk is slight, it is still unlikely that an orange bib will mark offenders out.
Perhaps, if the aim really is to make punishment visible, a colour should have been picked that we are not accustomed to seeing.
Earlier this year, a police chief in Wellington, New Zealand pioneered a scheme to issue pink vests to graffiti taggers.
It was a controversial move – a local councillor claimed it was reminiscent of the pink triangles gay men were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps.
But unfortunate associations aside, it certainly made the punishment very visible and, the officer claims, cut crime in his area.