Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.

anti-social behavior orders

Youth repression is not the answer

by Stephen Rigney

FACED WITH the growth of "anti-social behaviour", the government in the South, supported by the main opposition parties, aims to resolve this problem through repressive legislation, rather than address the causes of this behaviour. The introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill and more specifically, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) will only serve to further demonise and criminalise young people from working class backgrounds.

Under the new laws, ASBOs can be issued in a wide range of circumstances, allowing police to prevent people from entering certain areas or stop young people from hanging around with particular friends if they've been involved in anti-social behaviour. In reality, what constitutes anti-social behaviour is so vague, a judge can issue an ASBO in almost any situation where someone is deemed a nuisance, even on the basis of hearsay evidence. A breach of an ASBO can result in a jail sentence, effectively criminalising, non-criminal behaviour. They also have political connotations and ASBOs could be issued against political demonstrators, dispersing their protests.

While the government tries to portray ASBOs as their attempt to get tough on crime, figures from Britain, where ASBOs are already introduced, show no real impact on anti-social behaviour and upwards of half of all orders are breached. In reality, ASBOs are their response to the inabilities of capitalism to provide a decent education and life for working class youth. Anti-social behaviour is not an abstract occurrence but a product of social deprivation, and its impact on families and a lack of options and facilities for young people. Years of under-funding, have left little or no youth centres or initiatives in this country and modern facilities like skate parks are non-existent. The inadequate funding and resourcing of the education system results in many young people leaving school with literacy problems or simply not equipped with the skills and qualification to get a decent job.

There are virtually no resources or facilities to deal with the problems of drug and alcohol abuse amongst young people. These factors also play a significant role in the high rates of mental health illness and suicide among young people today.

Where youth initiatives to tackle these problems have been introduced in parts of Britain, youth crime has gone down 40% but capitalism cannot offer these resources to all of our young people.

Anti-social behaviour plaques many working class communities and makes people's lives a misery. Michael McDowell's ASBOs may be good sound bite politics, but it will not solve the problem. Anti-social behaviour will only be seriously tackled when young people are nutured by society, have equal opportunities, and lives free from poverty, a decent education and the prospect of a well paid job and a decent future. McDowell, Ahern and their capitalist friends offer only repression because they can't offer youth this type of future.

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