What Do We Know About Community Service?

Host Matt Watkins of New Thinking interviewed Harry Glenn and James Brodick from the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) and Joanna Weiss from the Fines and Fees Justice Center about the use of court-ordered community service as an alternative to fines and fees and incarceration.  

CCI is a nonprofit organization that works ​​to create a fairer, more effective, and more humane justice system by creating and operating programs to test new ideas and solve problems. In addition, they work with individuals who have been sentenced to community service, finding ways to hold them accountable while giving back to the community they harmed. 

The conversation with Weiss focused on two reports, one from CCI surveying over 600 lower-level courts across the country about their use of community service, and the other from UCLA Labor Center that researched specific court-appointed community service practices in L.A. County. The findings demonstrated that community service is used a lot across the country and is being used as an additional punishment for low-income defendants. Issues surrounding the current application of community service programs are: accessibility for all defendants, incentives to use community service as free labor, and  limited oversight by courts. In addition, there is not currently a model for how mandated community service should be used, and Weiss suggests there should be more research into the field. 

You can read the full text here and the report from CCI here.

Matt Watkins
Center for Courts Innovation