Federal and state officials have given a six-month reprieve to a highly touted Baltimore City Circuit Court program that was facing the ax.
The community service program, which allows judges to assign nonviolent offenders to supervised public service in lieu of a jail term, was scheduled to end Jan. 1 because of the city's budget shortfall.
Yesterday, state officials announced that the U.S. Justice Department has agreed to allow Maryland to use $97,000 from a federal block grant program to keep the program running through June 30. The money will be used to pay the salaries of the employees who place offenders in community work and monitor their attendance.
"If the program had been allowed to run out of money, judges wouldn't have had community service as an option," said Floyd O. Pond, executive director of the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission. "They would have to be placed in an already over-burdened probation system or in jail."
Community service is used throughout the state as a way to put criminals to work instead of behind bars.
There are multiple benefits: Judges have greater flexibility in sentencing; government gets free manpower to aid charitable organizations; and the state saves precious prison space.
Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, administrative judge of the Baltimore Circuit Court, had ordered the program be shut down when the city went through its most recent round of budget cuts.
Mr. Pond said the $97,000 will come from a $7 million grant the state received under the Justice Department's criminal justice and drug law enforcement grant program.