Steubenville community service program filled with success stories
STEUBENVILLE — The recent frigid temperatures convinced Municipal Court Community Service Program Coordinator Julie Shriver to assign her community service workers to janitorial duties in the City Hall facilities.
“It is too cold outside for the workers to be out picking up litter. I know I wouldn’t want to be outside in this weather for several hours. So we will stay inside today,” she decided.
Shriver has a special feeling for the community service workers she is supervising for the Municipal Court because she once was one of those workers.
“I was going down the wrong track when I was younger. I had to appear in Municipal Court, and former Judge Dan Spahn assigned me to two years in the community service program to keep me out of trouble. And those two years changed my life for the better,” recalled Shriver.
The community service program allows approximately 200 nonviolent offenders who cannot pay their fines and court costs to work in the program.
“After I was done with the community service I was working at the Maryland Market when Judge Spahn contacted me and asked if I was interested in being a supervisor in the community service program. I have been working here for the past four years, and last year Municipal Court Judge John Mascio moved me up to the program coordinator. It is still unbelievable to me because I never thought I would be in this position,” Shriver said.
“A lot of people assigned by the judge to the program have said I show them respect. I have been on the other side and know what they are going through. But I also know all the tricks, and I am up front with the people in the program,” remarked Shriver.
She is attending Eastern Gateway Community College where she is studying for a two-year degree in criminal justice.
“When I am done at EGCC I plan to transfer my credits to West Liberty University to get a four-year degree. I am interested in working as a probation officer, and a four-year degree will be better when I am looking for a job,” she noted.
“I always try to stay in a positive mood and work hard to make a better life for my three kids. I am a big believer in doing the right thing so good things will happen to me,” she said.
According to Mascio, Shriver is one of the success stories in the community service program.
“I knew Julie when I was the police prosecutor, and I saw she did a very good job, so when we had a retirement and moved our previous coordinator, I immediately thought of her for this job. She came through the program and is now a role model for the community service workers,” Mascio commented.
“I had a community service worker thank me recently for putting him in the program. He told me I was ‘a good dude.’ Part of my approach is to not speak down to people. And I ask them how they are doing and ask how their family is doing. I try to work with people and as long as they are in substantial compliance, I am satisfied. I am happy to see people doing what they can to pay their fines and court costs,” said Mascio.
“I don’t put violent offenders in the program. These are generally people who can’t pay their fine or court costs. So I put them to work doing something positive for the community,” Mascio explained.
“We had a gentleman who owed some serious money who asked to be in the community service program. He didn’t have a car, and I asked him how he would get to work every day. He told me he would be here. He drove a lawn tractor to the City Building every day to report for the program. He came for his last day of community service, and I told him he was finished early, but he argued with me and worked the final day. It became a point of pride for him,” said Mascio.
He noted the community service workers cut 738 vacant lots, cleaned city streets 121 times and the police station facilities 232 times in 2016.
“I want to get them more visible in the community this year. Some 200 people came through the community service program last year. In addition to working on city projects they also do work for the Urban Mission, Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority and other local agencies. It is good for the community,” Mascio said.
“The city was looking at a $50,000 bid for janitorial work in the City Hall complex but we are doing it for free,” he said.
“If someone doesn’t pay their fine and doesn’t participate in the community service program I have other options for them. We require any offender who does not pay their fines or court costs on the day of their court appearance to reappear for a review hearing scheduled 90 days from the conclusion of their case. During the review the offenders are expected to have all fines and costs satisfied or be in compliance with an established payment plan based on their financial ability to pay,” explained Mascio.
“We are involved in the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle Block Program that forfeits an offender’s driver’s license if that person fails to appear in court or fails to pay their fines and court costs in a timely manner. This is not a suspension. The offender’s driver’s license is blocked, and they are unable to apply for or renew their driver’s license until their fines are fully paid. And the offender’s ability to register or transfer or lease a motor vehicle will be blocked until the fines and court costs are fully paid,” added Mascio.
“I would rather work with someone who can’t pay their fine and court costs and allow them to pay off those fines through the community service workers program,” he said.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)