AJ Municipal Court’s Community Service program provides a solution to outstanding fines, incarceration
By Bill Van Nimwegen
“People make mistakes in life. You shouldn’t have to live with that for the rest of your life. I believe in redemption.” This quote from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe reminds us that fortune and misfortune can turn on a dime.
Every week, The News publishes court reports listing violations and fines imposed on individuals who have been found guilty of violating laws in Apache Junction.
Did you know that the city also provides options for those individuals to pay their court ordered fines through work programs? Many of us are familiar with the crews working throughout the city. We see them in safety vests clearing medians of trash or dressed in orange jumpsuits spreading gravel or painting curbs.
These are participants in a program that has benefited the city since it was begun in 2009. “It’s really a win-win situation for the city and those who owe fines,” said City Manager Bryant Powell. “After we lost so many employees during the recession, these maintenance projects were not getting done.” Apache Junction Municipal Court Presiding Judge James Hazel established the Court Community Service option, and Brittany Kimball is Court Community Service Compliance Coordinator.
“They get a bad reputation for not abiding by the law, but these people are trying to do the right thing. They are the ones showing up to work and also provide a service to the city,” Ms. Kimball said.
“I have two crew leaders,” says Kimball, “Glenn supervises the Department of Corrections crew and Larry supervises the court crew. The community service crew provides hundreds of hours of free labor for the city every month. Last month, it was more than 600 hours.
We take direction from the city manager and other city departments as needed. This includes Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD), Development Services – Code Compliance (pickup couches/furniture dumped in a lot or on the side of the road), Parks and Rec (help with special events, clean the medians along Apache Trail), Public Works (clean alleyways and easements) and the Public Library.”
The personal accomplishments of participants in the program can’t be measured. Self esteem and receiving a tangible value for their work can have a positive influence on future behavior. Ms. Kimball told The News about one program participant who secured a permanent position with Horizon Health and Wellness after his hard work and diligence was noticed by the company’s director. Sometimes the participants make their own suggestions for projects that they see are needed.
The city program participants are paid $10/hr. toward their fines and can work as their schedule permits. A traffic violation fine costs about $225, which can be worked off in just over 20 hours on the crew.
City participants meet at 7:30 a.m. behind the courthouse any day they can work. The crew works until 11:30 a.m., Monday through Thursday. According to the city’s website, closed-toe shoes are required for participation on the work crew (no sandals or flip flops). A hat or head-cover is highly recommended.
The Department of Corrections participants are incarcerated in Florence, but are paid $15/hr. toward their fines. To learn more about the Court Compliance programs, visit https://www.ajcity.net/588/Court-Compliance.