Sheriff to administer community service

August 03, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

The Howard County Sheriff's Office is taking over and expanding the state program that enables some criminals to provide community service to avoid going to jail.

Sheriff Michael A. Chiuchiolo announced last week that his office has received a $128,006 grant from the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to operate the community service program.

The program will be aimed at reducing occupancy in the county Detention Center and easing the workload of the state's Office of Parole and Probation in Howard, Sheriff Chiuchiolo said.

The program is open to offenders of nonviolent crimes -- such as shoplifting and drunken driving. Most participants are expected to be first-time offenders.

The grant will pay for office equipment and salaries for a director, three case workers and a secretary, and will cover the program's first year of operations.

Sheriff Chiuchiolo wants the program to provide a meaningful experience for the defendants by requiring them to give their time and skills to the community while they atone for their crimes.

"I want to make it beneficial to the community," Sheriff Chiuchiolo said. "But I also want to make it beneficial to the person doing the service. I want them to feel they've accomplished something."

Sheriff Chiuchiolo expects more than 100 defendants to participate in the program each month once operations are in high gear -- probably in four to six months.

Kathy Jones, manager of community services programs for the state parole and probation office, said the state provided $654,800 in grants for counties to set up or expand programs last year.

The state began community service programs in the early 1970s. Officials decided to transfer the management of the programs to counties so parole and probation offices can focus on defendants who need greater supervision, Ms. Jones said.

She said counties can better manage the programs because they can design them to meet local needs. She noted that many people assigned to the program do their work for county government agencies.

Howard is one of the last counties in Maryland to initiate its own community service program.

Garrett County is setting up its program and Caroline County still relies on the state for the program.

Sheriff Chiuchiolo said the county moved slowly on plans to start the program because officials were concerned about who would be responsible to fund the program after the grant money ran out.

Those concerns were eased, the sheriff said, when state officials agreed to an "escape clause" in the terms of the grant that allows the county to return the program to the state if no county money is available.

Sheriff Chiuchiolo added that defendants ordered to perform community service will be required to pay $25 to help cover the costs of the program.

Thomas Huegelmeyer, supervisor of the state's parole and probation office in Howard County, said he is happy to turn the community service program over to the county.

"I think it's the way it should be," Mr. Huegelmeyer said. "It's logical because [the county] can devote more people and time."

The parole and probation officehas managed the community-service program for the county, but the agency has only one agent supervisor for nearly 1,000 clients a year, Mr. Huegelmeyer said.

Defendants will be required to provide the amount of community service required by judges in Howard Circuit Court and District Court at any nonprofit organizations participating in the program.

Sheriff Chiuchiolo said one of the program director's first duties will be to enlist organizations -- from government agencies to churches and neighborhood associations -- willing to open their doors to participants.

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