We know that not every offender spends time behind bars. In many instances-either as a condition of the sentence, or because the person cannot afford to pay a hefty fine-many convicted offenders are sentenced to “community service.”
But what, exactly, does that mean? In Cuyahoga County, it means they are under the wing of Court Community Service (CCS), a quietly operating program that handled 18,000 court referrals in the last year alone, placing those offenders in some 300 non-profit organizations to perform 415,000 hours of community service. Had those agencies paid even minimum wage to the offenders, it would have cost taxpayers $6 million in wages. Typical assignments include removing graffiti in public places to performing yard work (usually through the Department of Aging), picking up litter along the freeway, and other unskilled labor.
Now the Cuyahoga Land Bank has become a CCS partner. Starting in April of this year, CCS began assigning offenders to do yard work on properties owned by the Land Bank.
“It’s an association where everyone wins,” says CCS’s Paul Klodor. “The courts have one more option for offenders who shouldn’t be incarcerated or can’t pay their fines; non-profits get a helping hand without straining their budgets and the offenders have something healthy and positive in their lives.”