Convicted offenders learn vocational skills, provide community service –
Story by Patricia Beech –
Photo by Mark Carpenter –
Adams County has a new facility for hosting community events, thanks to an Ohio probation grant aimed at rehabilitating drug offenders through vocational training.
Local convicted offenders currently on probation were given the opportunity to participate in vocational skills training while working on the construction of a gazebo which now stands on the west side of the Adams County courthouse lawn.
“This structure will be available to the whole community – any citizen or guests who wants to use it is welcome to do so,” said Common Pleas Court Judge, Brett Spencer. “It will be available for community gatherings like the National Day of Prayer and the Click It or Ticket Campaign, and for holidays celebrations like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, and Christmas. We hope it will be here for our citizens to use for many years to come.”
The idea to build a gazebo was inspired by a similar century-old structure in Washington Courthouse. The names of each of the county’s townships will be placed on the roof’s dormers in 4″ lettering.
The gazebo project was paid for with funds from the Ohio Probation Improvement and Incentive Grant (PIIG), which focuses on community service projects and is provided to Ohio counties in the Governor’s annual budget. PIIG funding can only be used for state-approved projects, and any money not used must be returned to the state to be dispersed among other counties.
The PIIG grant also dramatically reduces the burden placed on Adams County’s general fund. Approximately 50 percent of the funding is used for personnel who supervise offenders currently on probation. Additionally, the grant ensures the county will not lose probation officers when the post-DP&L budget cuts take effect.
“We can thank Governor Kasich and the state budget for not imposing any further burden on our county’s general fund,” said Judge Spencer. “This grant allows us to supervise drug offenders on probation, and it also allows us to give back to this community which has been so ill-affected by the drug epidemic.”
The grant funding used to build the gazebo was earmarked for specific types of projects to be carried out by the Adams County Probation Department’s community service program.
According to Judge Spencer, the goal is to expose convicted offenders to viable trades and jobs that productive citizens typically do, like carpentry and electrical work.
In addition to the gazebo project, the Probation Department’s community service program is also responsible for trash removal across the county, landscape maintenance, and other community-focused projects.
Last year alone probationers picked up over 84,000 pounds of trash across Adams County including 1,617 tires, appliances, furniture, carpets, televisions, mattresses and box springs, car bumpers, tables, doors, cabinets, propane tanks, satellites, electronics, and 1,580 bags of trash.
Several hours are also donated to the Adams County’s fairgrounds, especially by those who have specialized training in carpentry and electrical work, but also by general laborers who do simple maintenance work like mowing and cleaning out fence rows.
Additional projects funded either partially or entirely by PIIG funds include: murals at the fairgrounds, flower pots on the courthouse lawn, and blanket distribution to the local schools.
“This project is an opportunity to not only better our community, but to give offenders the opportunity to learn vocational skills and accountability that will help them in the future,” said Spencer. “This can open up job opportunities and teach them other skills such as responsibility, being on time, and learning to work with others.”
The gazebo was designed by Justin DeMint, who has also designed several structures for local schools.
“I wanted to create something that looked nice, and would complement the courthouse, but which would also be appropriate for its intended purpose,” said DeMint. “To that end we included electrical power to accommodate lighting and PA systems.” DeMint is employed by Adam Carroll of DC Engineering and Consultant, LLC.