Young offenders could work on Olympic projects as Home Secretary aims to increase community service.

nstruction programme for the 2012 Olympics could benefit from getting young offenders to work unpaid.

In an attempt to convince the public that community punishment is not a soft option, the Home Office wants the number of hours of unpaid work done by criminals given non-custodial sentences to double to ten million by 2011.

"We hope this will include an important contribution towards the work necessary to prepare for the Olympic Games," the strategy says.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, promised that young thugs would be "frightened" by the prospect of unpaid work while serving non-custodial sentences. They would wear identifying clothing so that the public could see them.

His five-year strategy is to revive the use of fines and improve the effectiveness of community punishment in the hope that this will encourage the courts to send fewer people to prison.

Mr Clarke's plans are part of a strategy intended to reduce the number of prisoners - 76,000 - in the 140 jails in England and Wales. The number of short-sentence offenders in prison will be reduced, as well as the number of psychiatrically ill, and women prisoners. Under the proposals thousands of criminals will spend less time in jail and more time being punished in the community.