What punishment would you inflict on a teenager convicted of a violent homophobic crime?
Knee-jerk reactions tend to vigilante-style ferocity, but careful thought can yield surprising results, as police in Sussex, England, discovered this year.
Brighton's hate crime unit ordered a homophobic teenager to spend a day working as an intern at the gay magazine 3SIXTY as part of his sentence. The boy had been part of a group who attacked a gay high school teacher in Dukes Mound, Brighton, early one Sunday morning.
Craig, the teacher, sustained a damaged lymph system, a scratched cornea and cuts and bruises across his face and body. He was hospitalized the following week with an infection that threatened to spread to his brain and was readmitted later with blood clots.
Craig was determined the offender should receive an appropriate sentence. He said, "As a gay man, I have experienced low-level homophobia throughout my life, such as name calling. I learned to roll the punches, but for me this punch was one blow too far.
"I like to think in reporting this crime, I helped stop it (from) happening to others."
Sussex police were inspired by similar projects in San Francisco, where anti-gay criminals have been required to work for gay organizations as part of their sentences.
David Harvey, co-owner of 3SIXTY, said, "They rang us in October and said, can this person come and spend a day with you?
"My initial reaction was, I am not sure if I want somebody who perpetrated a hate crime to be sitting next to me in my environment."
Harvey and his staff debated for two weeks before they came to a unanimous decision agreeing to the program. Now, Harvey says he would do it again.
"If we can change somebody's prejudiced view about us by admitting them into our environment, that has to be a good thing," he said.
The teen was asked to research and find articles on the Net which covered homophobic crimes. Editor Torsten Hojer said the team hoped the boy would see the futility -- and frequency -- of the type of crime he'd perpetrated.
Surly at first, the teen perked up when asked to write an article about a gay person in the public eye. He chose to pen a piece about the pop star Ian H Watkins, who'd outed himself before entering the Big Brother house. It seems the task enthused the boy, who stayed to oversee the page layout.
Following his internship, the boy asked his probation officer if he could write to Craig to apologize for his crime.
As part of Thursday's International Day Against Homophobia, Craig and Harvey spoke about the experience at the launch of a new campaign to tackle LGBT crime called "This is where you fit in." (Stewart Who?, Gay.com U.K.)