Today Joy Foster can stand tall and proud, after all, she is a cashier with the Barbados Transport Board.

Rewind the tape to 13 years ago; she was another person arrested by police and charged for possession of cannabis. The only difference is, she made much of the opportunities afforded to her to turn her life around.

Hers is one of the many success stories coming out of the community service programme executed by the Probation Department and mandated under the Penal Systems Reform Act of 1998.

The young woman shared her story during a community service seminar hosted by the Probation Department under the theme: Community Service: A Beneficial Alternative, at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.

Faced with a choice of accepting the 120 hours of community service or time in prison, Ms. Foster opted to perform community service. But, her decision was not an easy one, for while she was happy not to be going to prison, she was of the belief that community service was degrading and hard work.

Still she pressed on, and once the decision was made, she was assigned to a Community Service Officer from the Probation Department who gave her a number of proposals and options as to where she could do her service.?????Mrs. Eleanor Rice was patient and kind. She gave me wise counselling,??? Ms. Foster recalled.

Armed with sound advice, she then started work at the Transport Board as a general worker, where she was responsible for washing and cleaning the buses, terminals and shops.

But, her first days on the job were not easy, as her pride stood in the way. And while it was not long before she accepted her fate, the worst part came on pay day when she watched the other staff members being paid for their labour and she received nothing.

However, her good performance on the job led co-workers to encourage her to apply for a job at the Transport Board when she completed her community service, a suggestion she took up.

However, it would be another three months before she got the call. ???That was on October 2, 2002. That was 13 years ago when I was a general worker. Since then, I was promoted as a Cashier in the Revenue Department where I worked for the last five years,??? she proudly told those attending the seminar.

For Ms. Foster, the time spent doing community service gave her a new lease on life. ???It was through community service that I was able to make a contribution to society,??? she said, thanking everyone involved for the opportunity.

However, Magistrate Graveney Bannister noted that there were many persons who declined the opportunity to do community service when they found themselves before the court.

He explained that some offenders, particularly those who could afford it, usually opted to pay a fine, rather than do community service. But, he stressed that there was a need to remove the legal requirement that gave the offender the right to give consent to the making of the order. That requirement, he said, should be mandatory.

Noting that there were many who considered community service as the courts going ???soft??? on crime, the Magistrate noted that it did have a positive impact on the lives of many offenders.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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