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Editorial: More community service projects needed in county

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People sentenced for crimes in Johnson County performed about 3,700 hours of community service at the county animal shelter over the past two years as part of a county program.

In 2012, the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office started a program in which all community service ordered in cases in the county magistrate court would be served at the animal shelter. Offenders ordered to complete community service cleaned animal cages or did clerical work while being monitored by a former community corrections officer, according to a news release.

In 2012, offenders worked 1,443 hours at the shelter, and that number increased to 2,246 hours in 2013. The county also collected more than $5,500 from those offenders, who pay $1.50 for each hour they work, the release said.

Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said the program helped reduce the need for additional animal shelter staff.

This program clearly is a win-win. The county receives assistance in an important area without having to commit budgeted money. And the participants are involved in significant activities that have demonstrated worth. Potentially, they come away with an enhanced sense of self-worth, even though the work itself might seem less than pleasant at times.

Cooper said he is searching for more local locations where offenders can be sent for community service.

This is a good idea. If more programs can be lined up, then more offenders can be involved.

Some potential areas of service could include trail maintenance and other projects at Johnson County Park or at Independence Park in the Center Grove area or clerical activities or maintenance projects at the county museum in Franklin.

Many people sentenced to community service are first-time offenders convicted of low-level crimes, so public safety is not as much of an issue as it would be with other offenders.

We encourage the prosecutor to pursue more programs to utilize community service offenders. The county, the offenders and the taxpaying public all are certain to benefit.

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