GREENVILLE — The Darke County Adult Probation Department’s Chief Probation Officer James D. Mollette said, it is important that people working community service have buy-in.
“We try to instill in them that they are paying it forward in a sense, and helping the community,” he said. “It doesn’t always work; but we try.”
According to the National Institute of Justice, Community Service is effectively used in all 50 states and at the federal level, as a component of criminal sentences and juvenile adjudications involving diversion, probation and parole. Some of the goals of community service are to: hold offenders accountable for the harm they have caused to the community; provide communities with human resources that can improve public environments and help offenders develop new skills through supervised work activities.
Since at least 2000, Darke County Adult Probation has had a Community Service Program of some type, Mollette said.
“We man those projects with community service workers and direct supervision with our Community Service Coordinator Jonathan Gilbert” he said.
According to Mollette, some of the community service workers are not probation offenders. But most of the population, about 100 at any given time, are ordered community service by Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan P. Hein. He orders anywhere from 50 to 125 hours or more, to a particular offender going before him for sentencing and placed on probation, Mollette said. The number of community service hours worked in the county in 2017, was 5,237, which went towards non-profit organizations, such as: the Darke County Humane Society, the Darke County Animal Shelter, park districts, police and fire departments and churches.
“Sometimes the workers have a choice,” Mollette said. “We also try to make assignments geographically friendly for them.”
According to Mollette, whether he is working with one person, or a group of people, Community Service Coordinator Jonathan Gilbert is a mentor to the Community Service workers.
“When Jonathan is working with the people, he is coaching, counseling and giving them advice, ” Mollette said.
“I like working with the people, and the ability to communicate with them,” Gilbert said. “Community service gives us a chance to go out in the field and help the county.”
The Darke County Adult Probation Department also partners with the Darke County Solid Waste District, according to Gilbert. It has several events throughout the year, such as appliance and electronics recycling. Gilbert said he recently drove about 6,000 plastic bottle caps to Indiana, which will be turned into credit towards park benches for the Darke County Park District. Darke County Park District Director Roger Van Frank said community service is a very valuable resource of labor for the district.
“We always have some work scheduled for those assigned from the court system,” Van Frank said. “We try to find projects or chores that fit each person. It is important that we spend quality time with each of them, so we can assist them with their service time. On numerous occasions, the Park District Volunteer Coordinator has signed up some of the community service workers as special event volunteers, after their service time has ended. It is a true win-win for all those involved. I have met community workers over the last 15 years, that I have assisted with job referrals or references to potential employers. These second starts may be all they need.”
Gilbert said the Adult Probation Department sometimes receives calls of gratitude about the Community Service Program.
“People appreciate the help they get,” Gilbert said. “We clean up cemeteries, which trustees appreciate; we also help out the county garage guys too, and they are always thankful when we pick up litter. We work well together and get things done.”
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