Courts Community Service saves us money
by TOM ROWLAND, Cleveland City Mayor
Dec 16, 2010 | 1109 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This past week, I had the privilege of spending some time with representatives of the Southeast Tennessee Courts Community Service Program as they celebrated 25 years of service to the 10th Judicial District — Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Meigs counties.

A few days ago, the county mayor and I received the monthly report from this organization and the savings to our city and county in the month of November alone. So many people are unaware of this organization and what it means to our community and the entire judicial district.

Working with our local judges, district attorney’s office, public defenders, law enforcement and local governments, they save our city and county thousands of dollars each year by utilizing the manpower of individuals who are convicted felons and required to do community service.

Working hand-in-hand with the courts, the group manages an efficient system of quality alternative sentencing options responsive to the needs of the courts and our community, funded through the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.

The report I received this week shows that in the month of November, Courts Community Service Program provided labor to Cleveland and Bradley County that was equivalent to over 935 hours of service. At an estimate of $7.25 per hour, this equates to a savings of $6,779.

Offenders’ debts to society are repaid through programs whereby they perform labor and/or needed work in the community.

Last year, the Courts Community Services participants in Bradley County worked at the Courthouse, did downtown cleanup, assisted the Cleveland and Bradley County Recreation departments, Cleveland Bradley Public Library, senior center, Bradley County Veterans Affairs Office, Museum Center at Five Points, recycle centers and Habitat for Humanity, to name only a few organizations that benefited from free labor.

Under the leadership of Gary Conner, this organization has given 25 years of service and the savings has been tremendous. No downtown event such as the Halloween Block Party, Christmas Parade and other functions would be possible without the work of this program. They assist in helping with set-up and clean-up for each of these events.

Area judges laud this program as a means to allow offenders to be productive and give back to the community while serving their obligations to the courts.

One of the reasons for the success of this program is the fact that Conner, along with an able staff and a board of directors, has people who have been involved for the entire period of its existence — 25 years. That says mountains about the dedication of the people who run this program. Serving alongside Conner is a competent staff including Becky Pippenger, assistant, and case workers Tabitha McDermott, Sam Coffey and Melinda Godfrey. Johnny Pippenger is program specialist/community coordinator for the program.

In 1982, a similar program began that continues as a misdemeanor program under the direction of Randy King. This programs deals with misdemeanor violators and serves within the jurisdiction of Bradley County. The Courts Community Services deals with felony convictions and services the 4-county area that composes the Tenth Judicial District.

The program, with a complete advisory board representing all segments of the four counties, is a model program in the state and administered totally in-house since its inception. The Courts Community Services Board of Directors is committed to the program.

Co-chairmen are Drew Robinson, a member of the district attorney’s staff, and Eddie Cartwright, former Bradley County Executive and former member of the old Cleveland City Commission. Judges Amy Reedy (Bradley) and Carroll Ross (McMinn) serve on the board along with the sheriffs from all four counties, county executives and/or mayors of the counties, the district attorney and with private citizens who include: Randy Fox, Laura Young, Rafael Lastra, Edd Lewis and Joe Cate. Connie Wilson representing the Bradley County Commission and Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel also serve. The remainder of the board consists of probation officers, public defenders and Jerry Hoffer, representing the Tennessee Bar Association.

Southeast Tennessee Community Corrections Program, in conducting its duties to benefit the four counties, is also serving a dual purpose: perhaps in serving others the convicted felons are meeting individuals who may make an impression on them and encourage them to become more productive citizens in the future.

It’s a program of accountability and responsibility on the part of its participants — but it’s also a program that helps those convicted of a felony give back to the communities and seek positive direction for their future

It’s a win, win!

Hats off to those who make it work. Congratulations on 25 years of service!