JIS News

There has been an increase in the number of persons placed on community service orders in St. Thomas, since the programme was launched in the parish two years ago.
Community service order is one of the non-custodial sentencing options by the courts where an offender, 17 years and older, who has been found guilty of a minor non-violent offence, is ordered by the judge/magistrate to do unpaid work in the community as provided for under the Justice (Reform) Act.
Community Service Order Officer, Verona Gilzine speaking at a stakeholders’ workshop at the Anglican Church Hall in Morant Bay on June 7, said the probation office supervised a total of 334 persons, who have been ordered to do community service by the courts from December 2002 to June 6, 2005.
“By the end of 2003, the number of persons serving this sentence increased greatly. This created the need for more institutions for placement of orderees and additional probation officers in the unit,” she informed.
Mrs. Gilzine noted that 231 orderees have successfully completed their sentences, while 103 others, comprising 100 men and three women, were still serving. Currently, she said, two probation officers were monitoring the orderees placed at government institutions in the parish, such as the police stations, primary and basic schools, health centres, hospitals and fire stations. There are 106 placement agencies in the parish.
The officer raised a number of issues at the meeting, which she said, were hampering the success of the programme. She noted that, “some orderees see the sentence as a joke or burden,” noting that because the law under the Justice Act did not specify a specific time for the completion of the sentence, the orderee would serve the sentence as he/she pleased, while some may become delinquent as the sentence may take years to be completed.
Additionally, she said, some orderees were not suitable for this sentence because previous criminal record or background made it difficult for placement at an institution. She mentioned that medical conditions of orderees at times prevented the completion of the sentence.
The probation officer noted however, that more institutions were requesting the services of orderees to serve sentences at their institutions. “The rehabilitation work by orderees after Hurricane Ivan to repair institutions for their normal activities was great,” she pointed out, adding that, most offenders were now choosing community service instead of being sent to prison, paying a fine or risk loosing their employment.
Held under the theme, ‘Understanding the Sentencing Option: Helping to Change Lives’, the workshop was attended by supervisors of orderees, staff of the St. Thomas Probation office and the Department of Correctional Services, as well as representatives from the St. Thomas Resident Magistrates’ Court.
Participants were separated into groups to discuss the topics: ‘Based on your observations, evaluate the community service order programme at your placement agency and its effect on the community’ and ‘What recommendations would you make for the improvement of the community service order programme based on your analysis at your placement agencies.’
The workshop was organized by the Department of Correctional Services in collaboration with the St. Thomas Probation Office. It was part of a series of island wide sessions being carried out by the department. So far, workshops have been held in Montego Bay and St. Mary.

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