Community Service Program
Community service is a sanction that the court can impose as a condition of probation, conditional discharge, or supervision. The court imposes this sanction for varied purposes, such as a form of restoration/reparation and as an opportunity for rehabilitation.
The Social Service Department has developed a Community Service Program to provide the court with an alternative to incarceration and to achieve the Illinois Constitution’s objective of this court-imposed penalty, which is to restore the offender to useful citizenship. The Social Service Department's Community Service Program has the following goals:
to offer the court an alternative sanction for offenders placed on supervision or sentenced to conditional discharge;
to offer not-for-profit organizations the opportunity to utilize the services of offenders ordered to perform community service;
to require offenders to participate in a form of reparation to the community; and
to require offenders, through community service work, to perform productive and lawful activities.
As a component of a comprehensive intervention, community service often builds better community relations. Community organizations experience "criminals" as real people with human struggles. The offender experiences, sometimes for the first time, the intrinsic rewards of productive labor and the sense of belonging based on the principles of accountability and restitution. Offenders also come to the understanding that there are consequences for unlawful behavior.
In fulfilling the department's mandate to direct offenders toward compliance with their court orders, caseworkers use a process of assessment to provide and facilitate correctional interventions and treatment appropriate to the charge and situation of each offender. Efforts are made to match the degree and level of services to the offender's risk of recidivism.
Worksites and Placement
The Social Service Department has developed a network of hundreds of not-for-profit organizations throughout Cook County that participate in the program. These organizations include:
Offenders perform unskilled, semi-skilled and professional services depending upon individual abilities and the needs of the organizations.
Department caseworkers perform an eligibility assessment to identify the skill levels of the offenders. They also review individual factors to determine appropriate worksite placements, i.e., criminal history, offense committed, other court conditions/sanctions, correctional treatment plan, health, employment schedule, and residence.
Upon completion of the eligibility assessment, caseworkers contact one of the community service placement offices. The placement personnel match the results of the eligibility assessment to the needs/requirements of the organizations participating in the program. The placement decisions are communicated to the assigned caseworkers who then direct the offenders to the worksites at particular times and locations.
The department's Community Service Program clerical staff coordinate with the worksites to track community service hours completed by the offenders. This information is electronically stored in the department's Management Information System for immediate access by assigned caseworkers. Absenteeism, tardiness, failure to perform assigned tasks, and inappropriate behavior at the worksite result in an offender's termination from the assigned organizations.