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Community Service Orders in Federal Probation

NCJ Number
S M Donnelly
Date Published
16 pages
Guidelines for community service order program design and implementation are drawn from the U.S. Probation Office community service program that has been operating since 1977.
Community service is symbolic restitution, which involves redress for the victim, less severe sanction for the offender, rehabilitation of the offender, reduction of demands on the criminal justice system, and reduction of the need for vengeance in a society, or a combination of these factors. Community service benefits (1) the community, in that some form of restitution is paid, (2) the offender by giving him an opportunity to rejoin the community in a law-abiding, responsible role, and (3) the courts by producing another sentencing alternative. The program can be administered by probation office staff using existing resources. It must be available uniformly for all offenders except those incapable of performing community service work, those who may present a danger to the community, or those whose participation may be objectionable to community agencies. Moreover, offenders without an opiate history are generally more successful in performing community service work than those with drug records. The community service order should require, according to the severity of the offense, between 50 and 200 hours to be contributed in unpaid work over a period of 1 year or less. Each offender should receive orientation to the community service order, and individually tailored placements should be sought which best use each offender's interests and abilities. The offender should be interviewed by the prospective employer to ensure for mutual satisfaction with the placement. Followup procedures should involve monthly contacts by the probation officer. The case supervision plan should include assessment of the impact of the community service experience on the offender's behavior, values, attitudes, as well as its impact on the community. However, failure to comply should be reported to the sentencing judge, with individual circumstances dictating resulting court action. With these guidelines, the use of community service is appropriate for the Federal Probation System.