With its crews out working every day across the Commonwealth on landscaping, painting, moving furniture, and more, Community Service involves much more than highway trash removal.

The goals of Community Service are two-fold: to ensure public safety, and to teach positive social and work skills that probationers can use to be successful entering – and staying – in the workforce.

For example, landscaping assignments often include class instruction on horticulture basics, so Community Service participants remove weeds instead of seedlings and plants when they’re out on the job.

Other job sites, such as My Brother’s Table, which partners with the Office of Community Corrections Center in Lynn, include SafeServ food certification. Graduates have used the certificates to get full-time food service jobs.

The Court Bulletin recently joined Community Service crews on two job sites: Cunningham Park's Caldwell Pool in Milton and the Grant African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Roxbury.

First Stop: Caldwell Pool at Milton’s Cunningham Park. The biggest outdoor pool east of the Mississippi River, Caldwell Pool is open to Milton residents during the summer. The pool, which holds over 1.1 million gallons of water, first opened in 1905. 

Community Service has a year-round commitment with the Park. Crews sweep, paint, landscape, shovel snow, and remove trash at Cunningham Park’s 175 acres, which, in addition to the pool, include two Babe Ruth baseball fields, a playground, and a bog that is flooded for winter skating.

OCC work crews at Milton's town pool
Ready for summer: A Community Service probationer works to get the town of Milton's Caldwell Pool ready for its opening day. The nonprofit's trustees rely on the help from year-round Community Service work crews to maintain the pool and surrounding property. In the process, work crews learn landscaping, maintenance, and other job skills.

Crew members work together with Trial Court supervisors to sweep up leaves and other debris into tarps and dump them into a large compost pile behind the pool house. Others on the crew sweep the pool’s enormous floor and skim debris from the water's surface as the pool slowly fills from the center out. It takes three weeks for natural springs located underneath the pool to fill it in time for its opening day on June 20th, the first day of summer.  

“In over six years working with the Trial Court, we’ve never had a problem with anyone on our Community Service crews,” says Park Manager Dave Wahlgren. “We appreciate the help Community Service people give us. As a nonprofit running on a perpetual trust, we couldn’t get the job done without them.”

Next Stop: Stocking the Food Pantry at Boston’s Grant AME Church. It’s food delivery day at the historic Grant African Methodist Episcopalian Church in Roxbury. Darryl Odom, Assistant Court Coordinator, helps Church Program Director Ann Willis to supervise stocking of the church’s food pantry, which receives food from the Greater Boston Food Bank to provide groceries for upwards of 1,000 people a month.

Community service crews stock the food panty at Grant AME Church.
Helping to feed those in need: Assistant Court Coordinator Darryl Odom and Church Program Director Ann Willis supervise Community Service workers stocking the church's food pantry.

The Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court first referred the church to the Community Service program in 2014. Since then, Community Service work crews come to the church twice a month to help carry and sort boxes of food from a truck parked outside down to the church’s basement.

“We really appreciate how Community Service helps the community,” says Ms. Wills. “They are very helpful, very prompt, and they work real hard for us.”

By the Numbers: How Community Service Works

In FY15, 257,738 hours of community service were performed statewide. To get a sense of the scope of work Community Service performs, since 2011, some 1,400 Community Service workers logged in over 5,500 hours performing 1,600 moving jobs for the Trial Court alone, saving the court system hundreds of thousands of dollars from subcontracting the work with a moving company for drivers, trucks and crews.

Community Service monitors and supervises risk-need and administrative probation supervision cases. Probation officers can recommend community service to judges, who then can order it for probationers who are unemployed or at risk to recidivate due to inadequate positive social, leisure, or recreation activities, or for any other reason. Probationers who score high or very high on the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS) are often required to perform community service work as part of their conditions. 

Community service can also be used where a probationer is indigent and financially unable to pay assessed probation supervision fees. Participants sentenced to the Office of Community Corrections programs are also required to perform 4-8 hours of community service per week based on their assessments. The programs are based on scientific research which shows that highly structured programming lowers recidivism rates for high risk/high need probationers.1  

It’s difficult to capture all the success stories, says Community Service Statewide Supervisor David Skocik. That’s because the people who succeed usually don’t return to the court system once they complete their conditions. “In that sense, we don’t always know the final outcomes, although some people let us know how they’re doing after they finish the program."

1Source data: https://csgjusticecenter.org/reentry/principles-of-recidivism-reduction/ and http://www.ncsc.org/~/media/Microsites/Files/CSI/Additional%20Learning%20Materials/Handout%20P3%20Judicial%20Paper.ashx as of July 1, 2016.