CUMBERLAND — Although the difficult have gotten more difficult, law enforcement says that they, and offenders alike, are enjoying the gains received from alternative sentencing such as community service.
For many years now, judges in the legal system having been given a mechanism to punish those for lesser violations and first-time offenders of nonviolent crime to community service.
Adults and juvenile offenders are eligible to receive a community service sentence that is given out in work hours an offender must complete.
“Our program has currently a success rate of around 89 percent. It’s what we call restorative justice. It’s a chance for a offender to give back,” said Chapin Jewell, a judicial unit manager and 13-year veteran of Allegany County’s Alternative Sentencing Division.
“Our goal is to see them not come back,” said Jewell.
Jimmy Bone, who has been a labor unit manager with the division since 1995, was asked how community service has changed over the years.
“The ones that are hard to deal with are now harder to deal with. People use to not want to mess the program up and were embarrassed when they come in. Some just don’t seem to care about outcomes,” said Bone.
Bone is referring to the small percentage of offenders who present a challenge to the system.
Both men get a lot of satisfaction from larger percentage of successful outcomes.
“When they start taking responsibility, it’s a good feeling. That is when you know you’ve done your job,” said Bone.
Both Jewell and Chapin work with adult sentencing.
Ed Mullaney, downtown manager since 1998, and Gary Bartik, the president of the Allegany Museum, have both utilized community service workers.
“The town has benefited greatly from community services of all types. People feel more invested in their community. We really have become a community service family downtown,” said Mullaney.
Several people over the age of 21 agreed to speak about their community service. The Times-News has decided to use their first names only to protect their identities.
Johnny, who helped restore a 1930s bathroom in the basement of the Allegany Museum, found his service time to be positive.
“I’m doing things I enjoy. It allows you to be active in the community instead of being separated from it. You can’t do anything in jail,” Johnny said.
Some of the work given out is: landscaping, washing and waxing police vehicles and county buses and vans, janitorial and maintenance work at schools and decorating downtown for special occasions.
“Some of the people are down on themselves. We want them to feel better about who they are,” said Jewell.
Tim, who completed his 60 hours of community service on Tuesday said, “I’ve done landscaping, delivered packages, picked up trash and shoveled snow. It’a been a good experience. I didn’t know at first. But it’s one big family and everyone pulls together,” said Tim.
“I found out Tim did photography. So now I’m going to have him do some things for us with that,” said Mullaney.
“I want to keep coming down and volunteering,” said Tim.
Another aspect of community service is the financial savings incurred from it.
“We save money by not jailing them and the community benefits from their services,” said Jewell.
“We could not afford to do all things we have done. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the workers,” said Bartik.
All of the officials involved in community service try to match a worker’s skills with the jobs available.
“We had a carpenter build a baseball dugout, an artist painting murals, a man that was a painter was given the supplies and he painted the entire second floor of the public safety building,” said Jewell.
“Some people have gotten jobs from the work they have done,” added Jewell.
Earl, who helps Mullaney downtown, felt he learned a lot and created an extended family through the program.
“I hang lights, plant flowers, sweep and clean, and other things. I finished my 40 hours a couple of months ago. Now I’m coming down to volunteer on my own,” said Earl.
“I’ve been a smoker and I used to throw the butts anywhere. After you sweep up downtown, you really think twice about it,” said Earl.
“I did not know Earl when he came here. Now he’s brought several family members here and they even participated in our Halloween Parade,” said Mullaney.
Why do some of the difficult cases remain a challenge?
“It all starts in the home. Personal responsibility is not taught at home and there are no repercussions. Then it carries on into adult life,” said Jewell.
Joyce, who cleans and polishes brass at the Allegany Museum, has found the time educational.
“I have learned a lot here. It’s been a positive experience. It makes you take pride,” said Joyce.
Mullaney finds service work a win-win for all involved.
“We had a guy who liked to build. Near (George) Washington’s cabin, we had a garden inside a triangular border of railroad ties. Our worker had 40 hours to serve. He tore out the old ties and put in new ones and replanted that garden,” said Mullaney.
The guy felt great about himself and the city got a beautiful new garden, said Mullaney.
“One thing we will not do is take them by the hand. The ball is in their court,” said Jewell.
“If they don’t show up it goes back into the courts. They have to tell that judge why they didn’t do what he instructed them to do,” said Bone.
Steve who works at the Allegany Museum said, “I’d like to give my time back to the community and not sit in jail.”
Bone said some of the work is strenuous and is a shock to some.
“We had someone who had basically only every played computer games. We taught him to use a weed wacker. At first it was hard but he learned and became proud of it,” said Bone.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.