The Court-Referral Community Service Program began as a pilot program in 1977 intended to provide an alternative to incarceration for offenders. Today, there is a full-time specialist, as well as an advisory committee, which includes a judge, probation officer, court administrators and a county commissioner. The program is funded by a Douglas County grant and client fees.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Court-Referral Community Service Program and who benefits from the program?
The Court-Referral Community Service Program is administered by United Way of the Midlands and provides an efficient and effective alternative to incarceration for offenders. It began as a pilot program in 1977 and today there is a full-time staff member, as well as an advisory committee, which includes judges, probation officers, court administrators and a county commissioner. During 2015, offenders provided 21,394 hours of community service to agencies valued at $441,144 and an additional $1,005,226 savings to the court system. The Criminal Justice System benefits by saving the cost of housing offenders and by having a sentencing alternative that aids in reducing the prison population. The offender benefits by being able to complete all or a portion of his/her sentence in the community; many participants share positive experiences and are interested in volunteering in the future.
How does the Court-Referral Community Service Program operate?
A court assignment of community service involves a specific number of unpaid hours of work for the community to be performed within a designated time period. They are given in lieu of, or in addition to, fines, jail time, and monetary restitution, and as a sole sanction. Community service may also be a condition of pre-trial diversion. Offenders are of all ages and backgrounds. They are often employed, skilled workers: some are unemployed, without prior volunteer experience. A wide variety of offenses may have been committed, including simple traffic violations, drunk driving, theft, assault and fraud.
The community service is performed at a variety of nonprofit organizations such as parks, schools, senior centers and health agencies. Service may include manual labor, clerical assistance, classroom help, and other more highly skilled assistance. After the assignment is given, the offender reports to the community service agency and is monitored throughout by program staff. Written verification is provided to the court upon completion of the community service hours.
How can an agency become involved and what are the obligations?
We will, at any time, describe the program and its services to interested agencies. If an agency meets the program guidelines, its identifying information is entered into the Court-Referral Program’s database. When an offender seems appropriate to an agency’s needs, the program staff will arrange an interview for the offender at the agency.
The agency must supervise the offender’s work, keep a record of the community service hours performed, and evaluate the offender’s performance, and respect confidentiality with regard to the offender’s offense.
To apply to become an agency partner, click here to download the Agency Information Sheet. Please download the form, complete it, and send it to the address below. Once received, your submission will be reviewed to ensure your agency meets program guidelines. Please return your completed document to:
United Way of the MidlandsCO: Lori Haas2201 Farman St Ste 200Omaha, NE 68102
Where can I get more information?
Contact the Court Referral Coordinator by phone (402.522.7932), by fax (402.522.7991), by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by mail (United Way of the Midlands, CO: Lori Haas, 2201 Farnam St Ste 200, Omaha, NE 68102).