The Berks County Juvenile Probation Office has been utilizing community service since the late 1980's. The program continues to grow and adapt to the needs of the offenders, the judicial system, and the community at large. A community service order requires the offender to pay a debt to society by working in the community. In doing this, offenders are held directly accountable for their actions. This program allows for the placement and monitoring of juveniles at non-profit, municipal agencies, and school districts.
This program is seen as a work ethic approach to punishment, which is both humane to the offender and at the same time highly beneficial and cost-effective to the community. Under Act 303, worksites are immune from liability for any worker that the probation office has placed with them.
The Community Service Program is utilized in order to work off Court ordered hours, as well as Court Costs, fines and restitution to victims. It may also be used in lieu of placement, as a stimulus to seek employment, or as a motivator for appropriate behavior in school. The majority of offenders are placed on an individual basis. There are, however, several supervised crews available on a limited basis. The Community Service Program strives to create the best possible match between the needs of the worksite and the abilities and needs of the offender. Each worksite is allowed to interview a potential worker as they would any other "volunteer" and dismiss them at any time if the arrangement is not working as anticipated.
The Berks County Juvenile Probation community service program consists of several segments:
- Community Service for clients on probation to work off Court ordered hours, fines, Court Costs, or service fees.
- Restitution Incentive Program which allows hours to be converted to a dollar amount so a restitution check can be sent to the victim.
- Magisterial District Court Judges segment which allows County Magistrates to impose community service hours in lieu of fines for summary citations.
The Berks County Juvenile Probation Office's Community Service Program has generated an average of 42,000 hours of service per year since 1999. In 2007, 57,916 community service hours were performed. These hours were performed by juvenile offenders at hundreds of non-profit agencies throughout Berks County.
We are always in need of new worksites for our clients. If you are interested in participating or have any questions, please contact the Berks County Juvenile Probation Office and ask to speak with someone in the Community Service Department.