In a post on the New Observer, Justin Wyllie points out that new anti-social behaviour powers are often being used against the mentally ill or other marginalised groups. He says:
‘Many of the targets of these new ‘Anti-Social Behaviour’ powers are people with mental health problems. The isolated and damaged individuals who interfere with the process of shopping in town centres up and down the country. There has been a blending of 3 previously separate domains; care for the mentally ill, handling anti-social behaviour (until recently dealt with informally by the authorities, if at all) and crime. Now all receive “support”. All are subject to the same disciplinary measures. The moral judgements which distinguished these three domains have evaporated as morality has succumbed to the one prevailing law – the law of money. All are political problems. All interfere with the processes of productivity and profit. All are to be controlled by officials given unlimited powers.’
This is an important point. Increasingly, social services supposed to help homeless and other groups are becoming fused and confused with use of police powers against them. Homeless people are woken up in the night by police (they call it ‘engaged’) and told about the services available to them. Other individuals are issued with criminal orders banning them from begging or from drinking in the town centre
Increasingly public services take on a punitive aspect, and open-ended coercive power becomes the primary experience of state authority.