8 Investigates: Community Service "No-shows"

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Community service often gets handed down to first time offenders and others to avoid jail time.  But lately, many of the people issued community service don't show up.  Through our Region 8 investigation, we discovered there have been 8,587 violations of Contempt of Court in regards to public service work violations in Craighead County from January 1, 2012 to date.

"If they don't show up to do the community service, we don't get paid.  We're cutting it close to even get their salaries paid," said Nick Hess, who is General Manager of the Justice Network in Arkansas.  Hess says the "no shows" cost the Justice Network thousands.  "Salaries and just the general overhead.  It's costs up about 60 to 70 thousand dollars a year."

To break down the current numbers according to Justice Network records.  Right now, there are 336 active workers in Jonesboro.  These are the people in line with what they're suppose to do.  Compare that number to the 1,224 who just never showed up.  That's about 79%

"This month alone they mailed out about 800 post cards, reminders, for people just to come in and it takes about 40 hours of man power just to mail that out," said Hess.

Hess says many come back undeliverable.  When people don't honor there community service, it doesn't just hurt the Justice Network.  "We actually schedule about 24 different site now.  Anything from the NEA Humane Society, Goodwill, Sanitation for the recycling program," said Hess.

'It would work better if everybody participated the way they are suppose to," said Anthony Feezor, who is the production manager at the Jonesboro Recycling Center.

"We have about 30% that don't show up," said Feezor.  He says the center often uses 3 to 5 community service workers in the day-to-day operations.  "It really works well for us. I like I said, it reduces our overhead and give us workers that are most of the time eager to come in because they know they are just going to be doing their hours for a few days."

Hess says the hardest part is to get just them in the door.  "We work with anybody that walks in the door.  We work with you to get it done. come do your community service.  Come to your community service, get it over with.  Cheaper in the long run to go ahead and get it done and be done with it," said Hess

Region 8 News asked Hess why he thinks people aren't showing.  He says he has no idea.  It not only avoids someone from possibly jail time, but gives back locally.  Hess says when people don't show, they eventually end up back in front of the judge.

According the Craighead County District Court Accountant Lisa Lawrence, from Jan 1st 2012 to date there have been 8,587 violations of Contempt of Court in regards to public service work violations in Craighead County.

Copyright 2013 KAIT.All rights reserved.