The Alternative Sentencing project to paint the exterior of the Town Hall and Highway Garage is complete. The building looks very nice. Pasted below is an article from this past week’s Granville Sentinel about the project. Dana
County offenders work off sentences
While they may not be on a chain gang, local offenders are working hard around Washington County.
As part of an alternative sentencing program, these workers are repainting the exterior of Hartford’s town hall and highway garage.
According to its website, “Washington County Alternative Sentencing offers an array of Alternative to Incarceration programs that focus on reducing the costs associated with incarceration and/or placement in juvenile detention facilities, holding offenders accountable, restoring the community/ victim back to a pre-crime state, maintaining public safety using ‘best practices’ to ensure positive outcomes, reducing recidivism and providing pre-trial/sentencing options to courts.”
Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff said this is not the first time Hartford has benefitted from this setup; several years ago the same program provided manpower to paint the old highway barn and the Hartford Baptist cemetery iron fence.
“They asked us because they were really pleased with the work we did before, so they asked us to do it again,” said Scott Stoughton, who runs the community service program. Anyone who is sentenced to service as an alternative to jail time does so through him. He said the youth and adults he works with have all committed low-level crimes, violations or misdemeanors.
Haff believes this is beneficial in multiple ways.
“Seeing them sit in jail is useless other than punishment; this way they get to work off their crime. At least they’re being productive and contributing to society,” he said.
And perhaps benefiting the most from this program are those who are doing the projects, rather than the recipients. Stoughton said a lot of them are trying to turn their lives around, and a l t e r nat ive sentencing helps that endeavor.“Some of them learn they’ve made a mistake. It gives them a chance to talk with each other in a different environment—it’s therapeutic for them,” he said. “A lot of people from felony treatment court come back as volunteers because they want to see it through. They really take ownership of the project.” Additionally, Stoughton said these participants, especially the younger ones, learn valuable life skills to which they might not otherwise be exposed. Some have even found jobs through their worksites. He said few counties have someone in his position, but that he does many projects and saves a lot of money for not-forprofits, schools, churches and municipalities.
In Hampton, for example, Supervisor Dave O’ Brien said last fall that the town received up to 800 hours of labor from alternative sentencing participants during the construction of the community’s town hall.
He estimates that labor saved the town as much as $60,000 in skilled labor.
“People hear about community service, but now they’re actually seeing if it’s being done. It really stretches Hartford’s tax dollars. It’s a nice product, and it’s free. All we’re paying is about $3,500 for materials— how can you beat that?” Haff said.
Highway Superintendent Greg Brown agreed, and he said the offenders’ work is as good as professional services.
“I thought they did very good quality work. Scott does a good job overseeing the project. I think it’s a good program; instead of sending people to jail they’re putting them to work,” he said. He and Stoughton estimated the workers had put about 240 hours into the project as of Thursday for work that might have cost at least $12,000 otherwise.
Stoughton said in addition to special projects, his workers do regular maintenance at cemeteries, parks and a church. They’ve previously taken on such tasks as working on Hadlock Pond when the dam broke, cleaning up the Salem courthouse for months after Hurricane Irene and more.
Any nonprofit organization interested in setting up a project can contact Washington County Alternative Sentencing at 518-746-2333.