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Appendix to: Keeping an Eye on Things in the Year Ahead

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Three Examples of Community Service Articles

Excerpt from: School mulls service issue 
The Republican, Sunday, December 26, 2004 

School officials will take a second look at its community service requirement for high school graduates effective with the Class of 2007 sometime next month. The graduation requirement was approved by the School Committee in 2002 but just recently letters detailing the 100-hour mandate were distributed to members of the Class of 2007 and their parents.

That sparked controversy with some parents. "I'm not opposed to community service, but the timing is bad. This thing sat dormant for two years, and now it poses a burden on students to complete the requirement in less than two years," [a parent] said last week. "I am opposed to this being a graduation requirement."

The 100 hours of community service requirement "will be up for review," [one official] said, "I believe in the project whole-heartedly, and this policy was created with good intention."

Some parents have told the School Committee there is a lack of community service in a small community like Southwick. But, [the official] said the requirement can be met by just working toward improving the atmosphere and climate on the (school) campus. "They can create murals and pride statements on the walls at the high school," the chairwoman said. "There are some things in life that provide a lot. This is a good, worthwhile experience." …

Excerpt from: Community service to have new fee 
Daily News
By Wendy Reuer

The Community Service Program has been a long standing method for the court to allow criminals to pay their debt to society after being charged with a crime…The program may be tweaked a bit by the Richland County Commission [who] asked the commission to begin charging a small fee to those people sentenced to community service. Stokes told the county commission the program is actually costing the county money instead of recouping damages caused by an illegal action. Stokes estimates charging $15 to each person sentenced to community service could reimburse the county between $8,000 and $12,000 a year. Stokes said the community service program is currently costing taxpayers more than $40,000 each year and could reduce the county's costs by $16,000 or more.

The problem is that fines paid to the courts are sent to the state. Court administration expenses, however, are not recouped by county courts because of the current system in place. "As a result, indirectly the county is paying for the fine while others benefit. I don't think it's fair to the taxpayers," Stokes wrote in an e-mail to commissioners.

"I don't think that's out of line. It's administrative costs, court costs," Commission Chairman Tim Campbell said.

Stokes offered a method to recoup some of the costs of this service to the county by tacking $15 onto the community service sentence. "They're going to have to work to pay their debt to society. I think this is a way to even it out a little bit," Commissioner Perry Miller said….

Excerpt from: Charities get help from county courts
The Villager, Houston Community Newspapers, September 15, 2004
By Brittanie Hoofard http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/archives/charities-get-help-from-county-courts/article_3aab4704-7d0a-5aae-8db0-0bfb4f866bfe.html

A long-used but novel approach to community service may be spreading to more courts in Montgomery County thanks to a local nonprofit organization.

A long-used but novel approach to community service may be spreading to more courts in Montgomery County thanks to a local nonprofit organization. Last month, Karen Gould, center director for the Spring/Woodlands branch of the Pregnancy Assistance Center North, approached the Oak Ridge North City Council during its regular meeting to ask that the council encourage judges in its district to adopt the donation restitution program, which allows those who are assigned community service to "earn off" hours by buying needed goods and donating them to local charities…

Judge Olen Underwood of the 284th District Court said after several people complained they were unable to fulfill their community service hours, the courts began to consider an alternative to fulfilling the time requirement of service. "Community service restitution should not interfere with a person's ability to earn a living," he said. "The idea of community service is to make restitution to the community."

The idea for the donation restitution program first came about [20 years ago] during a time when local charities and food banks were low on donations, said Mel Brown, executive director of the Montgomery County Department of Community Supervision and Corrections…For many people, service means physical labor, usually volunteering at a charity. Still, there are those who can not take time off to spend 24 or more hours as a volunteer…

Those who wish to earn their community service via donations are given a list of participating charities, and a list of goods each of those charities need. The person must then go to the store, purchase those items, take them to the charity, obtain a receipt from the organization and then take that receipt back to the judge. "That's a large part of it," Underwood said. "Watching the money leave their hands and taking the donations to the organization."…

During her presentation to ORN's City Council, Gould was asked whether the program amounted to criminals "buying their way out" of community service… "It's not buying out," he said. "Everybody who pays a fine is buying their way out. Some people don't like the idea, but the whole purpose is to assist the person committing the crime in recognizing the consequences of the crime - not to themselves but to society as a whole. They cost the community a lot of time and money."

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