0

Community service proves alternative to jail

Special photo Clayton County probationers perform hundreds of hours of community service, working off their sentences and providing free labor. 

Special photo Clayton County probationers perform hundreds of hours of community service, working off their sentences and providing free labor. 

Most people have seen groups of workers in bright-orange vests, picking up trash along Clayton County roadways, bagging it up, and moving down to the next mile.

These community-service workers are probationers participating in programs that not only keep them out of jail, but save taxpayers money.

The Accountability Courts refer to the Superior Court's adult felony Drug Court and the State Court's DUI/Drug Court. The mission of the programs is to extend sentencing alternatives for the judiciary, while helping participants re-establish themselves as contributing members of society.

Last week, 19 participants in the felony Drug Court picked up trash and debris along Tara Boulevard, from Battle Creek Road, to Southlake Drive. The project was established in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Transportation's Adopt-A-Highway program.

Court Programs Coordinator Ashley Arnold said the programs allow participants to give back to their community.

"The programs are designed to encourage offenders to build good work ethics, respect authority and work off part of their sentence," said Arnold. "Also, program participants are required to complete community service and give back to Clayton County. In effect, their services save county taxpayer dollars, and make the road safer for drivers."

The felony Drug Court, which started in October 2009, is a substance-abuse treatment and supervision program for eligible defendants with non-violent felony offenses. The program graduated its first two participants in July. Jaime Iraheta and Joseph Bray successfully completed an intensive, 18-month program of constant community supervision, treatment and 12-step group meetings, a 9 p.m., curfew, random drug testing, more than 230 hours of community service, financial classes, while holding a job.

The State Court's DUI/Drug Court is a separate, and mandatory, sobriety and diversion program for repeat offenders. Program Coordinator Katrina Hood encouraged "individual accountability" during the observance of October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Participants collected used and inactive cell phones for use by victims of domestic violence.

"Sixteen program participants donated 176 phones to be refurbished and preprogrammed with 911 and other emergency numbers, so that victims of domestic violence can access emergency services," said Hood. "They can also access a domestic violence hotline at the touch of a button.

Arnold said members of both programs have successfully exceeded expectations to demonstrate their appreciation for a second chance to remain sober, and out of jail.