Offenders who are repaying their debt to society have made the island a better place.
That’s the verdict of the Home Affairs Minister Bill Malarkey MHK.
Community service work groups have helped to rejuvenate Manx heritage sites, woodlands and beaches, construct leisure facilities and provide valuable assistance to charities and clubs.
It is estimated that more than 15,000 hours of unpaid work will be carried out in 2017 by people who have been given community service orders in court.
Mr Malarkey said: ’The department is committed to keeping people safe and the more serious and persistent criminals can expect to be sent to prison.
’However, locking up people is not a one-size-fits-all solution and there are other ways to achieve meaningful results for offenders as well as victims of crime.
’Community service is definitely not a soft option. This type of community payback is a proven method of holding people to account for the harm they have caused. The added bonus is the positive impact on our environment and local neighbourhoods.’
Community service orders are frequently handed down by the courts as an alternative to custodial sentences and require offenders to perform unpaid work in their own time.
Projects are usually carried out as part of weekend work groups under the direction of a probation officer and community service supervisor. Individual placements are also arranged at various charitable organisations across the island.
Schemes in recent months include a partnership with Manx Heritage Trust to help restore and maintain the grounds at Cregneash village. Tasks have included dry-stone walling, painting, garden and hedge maintenance and the creation of new vegetable patches and flower beds. Cottages have also been cleaned and the collectables washed and dried or dusted.
Offenders have been involved in the construction of additional off-road cycle trails and paths at Archallagan plantation and in a long-term project to clear 30 acres of overgrown land at Onchan to create new gardens and nature trials in conjunction with the Manx Woodland Trust.
Work has also taken place to support a number of sports clubs and community groups, to help establish a sensory garden at a primary school and to clear beaches and coastlines of rubbish, including work to support Beach Buddies at the Ayres ahead of the nesting season for terns.
Michael Coleman MLC, Home Affairs department member with responsibility for the prison and probation service, recently visited some of the projects.
He said: ’Community service orders are effective on many levels. Offenders are required to show discipline and commitment, often over several months, to complete the sentences imposed by the courts, while their efforts make a genuine difference to the community. I have been impressed by the range of projects tackled and the quality of the work. This approach forms part of our strategy to reduce reoffending and ensure the Isle of Man remains a special place to live and work in line with the aims of the Programme for Government.’
Any charities or non-profit groups that are interested in benefiting from the initiative should contact Jessica Welch at the probation office on 687332.