June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

County felons looking to work off their sentences

If your nonprofit organization is in need of volunteers, the Medina County Adult Probation Department might have what you’re looking for.

Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry said the Probation Department is looking for places probationers can serve their community service hours — and all nonprofit groups are eligible.

Perry said most of the department’s probationers have been convicted of lesser felonies, like theft or drug charges.

Violent offenders and high-class felons aren’t given community service hours.

“Most of them are good workers,” Perry said. “They know they’re under court scrutiny, so I think that helps.”

That close scrutiny means nonprofits rarely — if ever — face serious problems with the probationers, she said.

“We monitor them very closely,” she said. “We have minor issues with them, just like any other employer — you know, showing up late or not showing up, but it’s not common.”

She said taking on probationers as volunteers also could save a nonprofit money.

Nonprofits that take probationers include the Medina County Home, the Medina Service Center, the Medina County Park District and the county courthouse.

Rick Perry, operations manager for the county park district, said he puts the probationers to work cleaning up trash, scrubbing bathrooms or trimming weeds.

He recommended the program to others because it’s a benefit to everyone involved.

“Most of them are pretty good guys who just made a mistake,” Rick Perry said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to avoid going to jail, and they take advantage of that.”

Occasionally, a probationer will come over who won’t work, he said. If that’s the case, he just tells the Probation Department not to send that person again.

“They’re not violent offenders, so it’s not really a concern that there are a lot of bad people coming to our place to work,” he said. “For the most part, they work out pretty well.”

Janice Gerbasi, the Probation Department’s community service coordinator, said the workers only get a couple of chances before they find other means of punishment, which keeps them on track.

She said the department can provide probationers for longterm volunteering or for special events like picnics, festivals and concerts.

Occasionally, the probationers turn into permanent volunteers.

“Sometimes, probationers develop a good relationship with the nonprofit, and they’ll return on their own after they serve their time,” Gerbasi said.

For more information, call the Probation Department at (330) 764-8810.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.