The offenders assisted with Covid recovery in Dumfries and Galloway as part of their community service.
Criminals hit by community court reimbursement orders have not been able to complete many of the standard tasks over the past 18 months due to the lockdown and restrictions.
Instead, they have been put to work in vaccination centers, helping with food banks, or involved in the community response to Covid in other ways as part of their rehabilitation program.
The council’s justice social work team proposed a new community service program, which also included other rehabilitation activities, including e-learning courses and connecting with third sector support organizations.
This mixed approach to new community recovery tasks, as well as some older tasks, was discussed at the Nithsdale area committee of the council last week.
Dumfries Provost Tracey Little asked for more information on the success of this new program.
She said: “The community recovery service connects people to the community, brings them back into the community, and engages them in ways they may not have been engaged in before.
“I find that from different reports and stories that we get on how it worked, we learn how it has helped an organization, but also an offender. “
The provost pointed out that new activities carried out by offenders – such as volunteering at vaccination centers and helping with food banks – do not involve much face-to-face interaction with the community.
“So there’s not that extra level of commitment just for rehabilitation and the like,” she said.
“I understand they have to devote their hours to it, and that’s not a criticism, I’m just interested to see if you think it’s been a little detrimental.”
City Councilor Heather Collington responded, “I think you brought up a very important point because one of the main benefits of the whole unpaid work program is how you connect people and how you demonstrate that they benefit communities.
“It was a real fight for us, and no, we didn’t make it because we couldn’t. We had to follow the proper restrictions and still follow the proper restrictions.
“This was probably the part of it that was the most difficult, and we are very aware that this is one of the things that we may not be able to accomplish the way we would like.
“Having said that, I think the team have gone to great lengths to try and come up with reasonable alternatives in order to try to alleviate some of that.
“We haven’t done a formal evaluation of this one, but what we’re definitely hearing is that overall it has worked reasonably well.
“We would like to keep some of this mixed approach in the future. There was real value in having a wider range of choices for people.