The increasing media obsession with the rate of crime in Britain has led to another draconian gem from New Labour's former "respect tsar", Louise Casey.
In the government-commissioned "Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime" report Casey argues, among other things, that people doing community service should have the added shame of wearing high visibility jackets stating that they are being punished. She also argues that websites, leaflets, posters and public meetings should be used to name and shame those guilty of crimes such as vandalism and tell people what their punishment will be. She also suggests giving community support officers the power to detain and fine people - a bit like budget versions of Judge Dredd.
"We're all a little tired of hearing about the human rights and civil liberties of people who break the law," said Casey.
While there is little evidence to suggest that public humiliation would stop crime, that doesn't seem to be the reason for the new measures.
"More offenders than ever are brought to justice and punished more severely - partly reflected in a doubling of those now locked up in prison and 93 percent of offenders being made to pay their fines," Casey acknowledges. But the public still "don't believe wrong-doers face adequate consequences for the crimes they commit. They don't believe that crime has fallen when they are told so." So crime is going down and sentencing is going up - but since people don't understand that, it's time to make life even more intolerable for graffiti artists and litter bugs.
Plastering a town centre with someone's mug shot would seem to serve as an attempt to show that the government is being tough on crime. No more of this politically correct nonsense about being "tough on the causes of crime" - this is the modern equivalent of being tarred and feathered.
Casey is a long-term friend of New Labour. She can boast being one of the brains behind the anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), and Tony Blair's "homelessness tsar". In 1999 she accused charities of "perpetuating homelessness" by giving out sleeping bags and soup (how are we expected to rid the streets of the homeless if people don't just let them freeze to death?).
Home secretary Jacqui Smith is said to be enthusiastic about the report, always salivating at the opportunity to make Britain a pioneer in ineffective draconian punishment. But these tactics have not always gone down too well. In Shenzhen, China, 100 people convicted of offences related to prostitution were paraded through the streets in yellow tunics in 2006. This caused such a wave of public revulsion that the government didn't dare use the punishment again. So the question is: can crime fighting duo Smith and Casey succeed in offender humiliation where the Chinese government has failed?