Community Service as a Tool to Lower Crime Rates

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Court-Ordered Service – an Effective Way to Reduce Crime

Laws have been put in place to restrict the potential unethical behaviours of citizens. When one breaks a law, there may be severe punishments. Major crimes result in arrest and conviction, possibly a life sentence to prison, where the wrongdoers of society pay for their wrongful acts. Sending criminals to prison to pay for their crimes is often expected. In the 1990’s however, the Canadian Government had its number of prisoners doubling in size. This change made them look at other possible solutions that would decrease the number of prisoners, while also punishing them for their crimes. Although there are mixed reviews on community-based punishment it seems to have been successful.

When prisoners are assigned community service, legally referred to as Court Ordered Service, they are required to start volunteering quickly because they must finish these hours in a certain amount of time. Due to the fact they now have a record they can only volunteer at places that don’t require a police background check or look past said check. There is no obligation according to the Government of Canada that an organization has to accept court ordered service members to volunteer for them; “Many volunteer opportunities may not be open to you as a result of your criminal record or police involvement. Positions working with children, vulnerable populations, money and/or fundraising and a number of other ‘high-risk’ opportunities will likely be closed to you.” (Toronto, 2017). This is an inefficient aspect to this system. Although these people are forced to complete all of these hours in a restricted amount of time due to their crimes, they may struggle because there is a lack of availability in positions being offered. Despite the fact that they have less opportunity to fulfill required hours, completing these hours is very beneficial for them. This is shown through a few studies like the one done by Bouffard and Muftic that shows that low level prisoners who completed community service serve less time than those who just pay fines (2007, 17). This is important to note because it demonstrates that community service is working, and it is an efficient way to lower the crime rates.

However, this is not the only time community service was used to decrease crime. It is thought that teens who do community service will commit less crime after high school (due to the forty mandatory community service hours). According to a study by Shabbar, Carri, and Corrine, youths who participate in more volunteer positions and contribute to the community more are less likely to commit crime (2016). By using the court ordered service, they start to enact crime prevention. An example of this is a criminal, named John. He is in the court ordered service, and volunteers at a local garden. Because of the court ordered service when he is finished and out of the system, he chooses not to deal drugs there because he helped build it. This is a form of crime prevention. Primary crime preventions are “programs that identify opportunities for criminal offences and after those conditions to reduce the likelihood that a crime will be committed.” (Griffiths, 2010, 127). Even though this is usually thought to decrease property offences by putting in things like lights and cameras, volunteering can also decrease the likelihood of a crime being committed there by having someone care about what they are doing and taking a liking to the area decreasing their want to destroy or harm it.

In conclusion, court ordered service is efficient in decreasing crime but not in the way it is provided. Criminals don’t have as many opportunities to volunteer as say a teenager, because of their record making it harder for them to complete said hours. A possible solution is having a government run program that allows criminals to volunteer there to complete their mandatory hours.

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