Unpaid work as an alternative to imprisonment for fine default in Austria and Scotland

    by:
  • Gill McIvor (Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Stirling, Scotland, gillian.mcivor@stir.ac.uk)
  • Carlotta Pirnat (Email: carlotta.pirnat@univie.ac.at)
  • Christian Grafl (Professor of Criminology, University of Vienna. Email: christian.grafl@univie.ac.at)

Many jurisdictions have introduced other non-custodial measures to decrease the usage of fines, nevertheless they are still a popular sanction. Although the majority of offenders fined pay their fine, some are unable or unwilling to do so and as a consequence can be imprisoned. At a time when prisons are overcrowded and short term sentences are a substantial administrative endeavour, with little to no re-socializing potential, many jurisdictions have implemented other measures to prevent imprisonment for fine default such as unpaid work. Both Austria and Scotland have implemented the possibility of unpaid work as an alternative to imprisonment for fine default. While Scotland has almost 20 years of experience, Austria has just recently implemented the option of community work for fine defaulters in 2008. This article examines the experience of unpaid work as an alternative to imprisonment for fine default in these two contrasting jurisdictions and discusses the key differences between them. It considers whether the implementation of unpaid work as an alternative to imprisonment for fine default in each jurisdiction fulfilled the original policy intentions and what wider lessons can be learned from their experiences of unpaid work for offenders who fail to pay their fines.

Keywords: Community Service, Fine default, Unpaid work

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