There are four primary objectives of the Alternative Sentencing Division:
- To provide local judges with viable sentencing alternatives to traditional incarceration. The end result is fair and equitable sentencing coupled with tremendous savings for Allegany County taxpayers.
- To provide early intervention, education and treatment and minimize future involvement with the criminal justice system. The end result is many first time offenders being quickly diverted away from “the system” and never returning.
- To provide a punishment to offenders who normally would go unpunished. The end result is offenders who in the past would have received little to no punishment for their crime being forced to give back to the community they have harmed.
- To provide much needed assistance to local non-profit and governmental agencies in the way of free labor. The end result is the citizens of Allegany County reaping the benefits of the many tasks and special projects which otherwise wouldn’t get done.
The Alternative Sentencing Division of the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office was established in 1993 with the creation of an Adult Community Service Program. Funded initially by a grant, the Division began with a single employee devoted entirely to coordinating the Community Service Program.
The year 1998 marked the next significant expansion of the Alternative Sentencing Division with the creation of the Home Detention Program. Once again, utilizing state grants for seed money, the Home Detention Program welcomed its first program participant in October of 1998.
In the year 2001, the Alternative Sentencing Division expanded to include an Inmate Work Crew. At its inception, a Work Crew Officer from the Allegany County Detention Center was assigned to supervise the daily activities of a pool of Inmates whose purpose was to perform work on county-owned facilities and grounds. The workload was scheduled and prioritized by the Department of Public Works with the Alternative Sentencing Division being tasked with overseeing the Work Crew’s operations.
Operationally, the Alternative Sentencing Division is comprised of two units, the Judicial and Labor Unit, with each unit assigned specific supervision duties for daily operations. The Alternative Sentencing Division is co-managed by Judicial Unit Manager Chapin Jewell and Labor Unit Manager Jimmy Bone. Though the Alternative Sentencing Division is comprised of two units, the units work closely together to ensure efficiency of operations and assist each other in the completion of daily tasks.
Currently, the Judicial Unit is responsible for the supervision of the Adult Community Service and Home Detention Programs while the Labor Unit oversees operations of the Inmate and Community Service Work Crews. The Judicial Unit is comprised of Judicial Unit Manager Chapin Jewell as well as Caseworkers Melissa Davis-Bittner (Home Detention) and Tonya Layman (Adult Community Service). The Labor Unit is comprised of Labor Unit Manager Jimmy Bone as well as Work Crew Officers Sean Bean and Ken Hershberger.
Alternative Sentencing Division: Programs with Results
In FY 2011, the Adult Community Service Program received 952 referrals. Of the 952 referrals, 578 (60%) were male with 374 (40%) being female. Likewise, 558 (58%) were either employed or attending college with the remaining 394 (42%) either unemployed, retired, or disabled. From the 952 referrals, 38,384 community service hours were assigned with 34,453 hours completed during that same time. This represents a success rate of 89% (assigned versus completed hours). The monetary value of the work completed comes to $ 274,302.60 (hours times the minimum wage), the maximum possible savings realized from the 31,007 jail days suspended is $ 2,294,518.00 ($ 74.00 per day), and user fees collected from clients totaled $ 25,075.00.
Home Detention Program
In FY 2011, the Home Detention Program received 30 referrals. Of the 30 referrals, 18 (60%) were male with 12 (40%) being female. Likewise, 12 (40%) of clients were employed with 18 (60%) being unemployed, retired or disabled. Further, 25 clients successfully completed Home Detention with 5 being violated for various reasons. This represents a success rate of 84%. In addition, clients paid user fees totaling $ 28,248.00 and saved taxpayers substantially more money in the form of suspended jail days and the savings associated with not having to cover their medical expenses, which is a number very hard to quantify.
Inmate Work Crews
The Inmate Work Crew receives referrals from the Detention Center classification team and all participants must meet specific eligibility requirements. For example, violent offenders are excluded from participation as are individuals with any history of escape. Likewise, the inmate’s disciplinary record while incarcerated is closely scrutinized by the classification team when making eligibility decisions. The Work Crew Officers, in addition to being “working supervisors,” closely monitor all activities to ensure that safety and security remain the top priority while at the same time ensuring that the crews substantial work load is efficiently maintained. On average the crews maintain between 5/6 inmates at all times.
Allegany County Government, particularly the Department of Public Works, relies heavily on the Inmate Work Crew to accomplish a high number of assigned tasks. Whether it’s at the County Office Complex, the Detention Center, 911 Center or the vast expanse of the Fairgrounds, the crew can be found most days maintaining the grounds and assisting as needed with special projects. The crew performs work appropriate to all four seasons, whether it’s snow removal in the winter or grass cutting in the summer. Some years, the weather in particular presents numerous challenges. For example, major snowfalls and torrential rains uncharacteristic of recent years pushed the crew to its limits. Regardless of the challenge, however, the Inmate Crew completes their assigned tasks.
When County-assigned tasks are completed, the crew is available to assist non-profit organizations and other local governments. Recently, the crew partnered with the American Red Cross to load and unload holiday decorations, moved office furniture for Jane’s Place, the Local Management Board, and Legal Aid in addition to cleaning up illegal dumpsites within the City of Cumberland to name a few. Like the Adult Community Service Program, participating on the Inmate Work Crew enables the offender to serve the community they’ve harmed and be productive while incarcerated. Many participants find the training, life skills, and work ethic they learn from the Inmate Work Crew greatly assist them in finding and keeping employment once released.
The financial and aesthetic benefit generated by the work performed by the Inmate Work Crew is impressive. In addition to mowing a 21 mile portion of the Great Allegheny passage bike trail for Allegany County, the crew also mows and maintains up to 133 acres of grass at over 35 county owned or controlled properties. This represents a tremendous savings for taxpayers as turning this responsibility over to existing staff would greatly tax their workload and result in less efficiency of operation. Further, much of this work would have to be contracted out to private companies at a tremendous expense.
The Alternative Sentencing Office can be reached at 301-729-4132.