It Takes a Criminal
The earthquake in Nepal is a truly horrific natural disaster. One of many we have seen around the world and with climate change taking hold, we can only expect more extreme events to come.
As a country we’ve already pledged something like 5 million pounds in aid which is a help but there is a way we could do more and at the same time benefit ourselves – the two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive and there’s nothing wrong with doing it.
All it needs is a bit of joined up thinking and some backbone from politicians.
Pledging money is fine although I don’t know or trust how much will be delivered and in the case of some countries, how much will reach it’s intended recipients. What they need is help on the ground, people who can move rubble, tend the sick and injured, even help to rebuild.
What if we could have teams on standby who could be flown out to disaster zones at short notice, not just leaving it to charities and NGO’s.
The UK prison population is a bit shy of 90,000 people at the moment and among them will be people with the skills needed, people who, let’s face it, have time on their hands. How about we offer them the chance to be on standby so when one of these disasters occurs, they can be pretty quickly organised and on planes, taking the aid on the same flights.
The benefit for the country receiving help is obvious but at the same time we’d be saving money in the prison service. We tend to think all prisoners are simply bad people but this isn’t the case. There will be a large percentage who have just made mistakes they regret or been in situations they didn’t want to be in and don’t want to be in again and could see this as a way to make amends.
For those who might be career criminals, this is an opportunity to get away from prison life which could have unexpected results. I’ve been to what we would class as third world countries, not to disaster zones and not in the poorest areas admittedly but I’ve seen enough to totally change my outlook and I’m pretty sure this would be the case for a lot of people – if it’s not then they are probably beyond help but those who are open to it could learn skills that would be useful in the outside world and have something different to put on their CV’s. So another benefit for us would be less re-offending.
It would have to be totally voluntary and they would have to agree to sign off from being able to claim for injurys, disease and accidents but I’d imagine that is the case for aid workers anyway. There will be details that need working on ie how many times can a prisoner volunteer, logistics, who is excluded etc but at least it’s a starting point.
This might sound radical but then many things we take for granted today probably seemed radical in their time … the NHS, the benefits system, votes for women etc.
This can’t be a replacement for overseas aid, it’s just a way to help with unforseen disasters which I would hope would be copied by other countries …. and there’s another benefit for us, we’re seen as a force for good for once.