There is a need for more diverse placement banks to better utilise the skills of those sentenced to community service.

This was one of the key points raised when the Probation Department hosted a seminar entitled: Community Service: A Beneficial Alternative, as part of its 70th anniversary celebrations, at the Radisson Aquatica Resort yesterday.

Chief Probation Officer, Dorita Lovell, told participants that while there are tremendous psycho-social and economic benefits of community service, the programme had now reached the point where there was a need for more diverse placement sites.

Presently, agencies providing community service include the Barbados Defence Force, the Barbados Transport Board, the Markets, parish churches, district hospitals, the National Assistance Board, the National Conservation Commission and the Police Sports Club.

Ms. Lovell explained that community service was enacted in Barbados in 1998 as part of the Penal System Reform Act, and presented a shift away from the punitive aspect alone to exploring the option of restorative justice and treatment courts.

???Community service was seen as an alternative because it underscored the belief that it was not in the best interest of society, especially with young, low risk offenders, to place them in prison,??? she stated.

Noting the community service option was utilised by all courts, especially the Magistrates??? Courts, the Chief Probation Officer stressed that placement sites were limited.

This was supported by Senior Probation Officer, Angela Dixon, who noted that the volume of work completed by community service clients had increased annually with 29, 740 hours of unpaid work being completed in 2014, amounting to $332,195.

???This analogy is an illustration of the considerable savings achieved through the delivery of innovative quality service at a better value for the taxpayer,??? she said.

Noting that three new placement sites ??? the AC Graham Development Centre, The Soroptimist Village and the St. Clements Anglican Church had come on board, Ms. Dixon expressed the hope that other organisations would follow suit.

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