For more than 20 years, United Way of the Midlands has operated the Court Referral Community Service Program (CRCSP) in partnership with Douglas County. The program aims to benefit the community who has been harmed by an offenders’ crime. Probation officers refer people ordered to complete community service hours to United Way for intake and monitoring of their hours. CRCSP is an alternative to jail for individuals who have traffic or criminal violations. The program matches individuals required to complete community service with a registered nonprofit that can benefit from help – the community service becomes a form of restitution.
Based on an average daily jail rate and average stay, we estimate the CRCSP program saves the county more than $1,500 per person.
CRCSP eliminates the need for probation officers to spend time referring clients to agencies and having to verify service hours, which promotes efficiency. UWM’s network of nonprofits means we can identify organizations leveraging this community service to do the most good. Currently, we have 34 organizations with 55 locations as active options.
CRCSP assists approximately 300 clients annually. Each client serves an average of 75 hours, representing over 2,500 service hours for our community.
Utilizing CRCSP eliminates the need for probation officers to spend time referring clients to agencies and having to verify the service hours themselves, which promotes efficiency. Because of our unique position in the community, United Way has strong agency partnerships where clients can conduct community service across the metro. CRCSP refers the clients to the agencies, verifies the hours directly with the agencies, and reports to the probation officers upon completion.
In the last fiscal year, July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023, CRCSP served a record 332 clients. This is the highest number of clients served since at least 2016. One of the reasons for this growth is our expanded support to courtroom judges. CRCSP is now in the courtroom for problem-solving courts, including Veterans Court and Young Adult Courts. By being in the courtroom during proceedings, CRCSP can conduct intake and assign clients to agencies immediately when they are ordered community service – removing a step and barrier to starting to serve.
CRCSP is excited to share that we received a second grant from United Way Worldwide’s Ride United program for use through June 30, 2024. The grant allows us to schedule and pay for Lyft rides for CRCSP clients with barriers to transportation so they can get to and from their community service agency and to UWM offices for intake as necessary. We resumed offering this service effective July 17, 2023.
We offer transportation to and from agency sites through Lyft for those with legitimate transportation needs so they can complete their service hours. This program helps remove barriers for clients, which can reduce recidivism, probation violations, and possible jail time. We first started offering Lyft rides in September 2021 and expended all funds in February 2023; during this time, we provided 452 rides to help clients complete community service.
Ultimately, CRCSP provides a positive outlet for clients to contribute to the community. It provides an alternative to incarceration, satisfies the community’s desire for retribution and may offer relief from guilt for the offender.
Note: People assigned to community service should contact the CRCSP program manager to schedule an intake appointment. During intake, the manager will assess transportation needs to identify if a Lyft ride is necessary and appropriate. The CRCSP manager organizes all Lyft rides. In order to be fiscally responsible with the funds available, UWM has implemented a “one miss” rule, as Lyft still charges UWM a fee if the rider misses the ride. If a ride has been lined up, but the person does not show, they will no longer be able to utilize the service. Riders who call to cancel a ride prior to arrival of the driver will still be eligible. Rides may only be used for community service-related activities.
Daily program oversight is processed through United Way, but there’s also a committee of representatives from county court, district court, corrections, administration and probation.
Judge Horacio Wheelock – 4th Judicial District, District Court Judge
Judge Stephanie Shearer – 4th Judicial District, County Court Judge
Roger Garcia – Douglas County Commissioner
Amber Redmond – Douglas County Corrections
Candice Gaines – Douglas County Corrections
Colby Barak – Douglas County Corrections
Debbie Otwell – Douglas County Corrections
Steffany Cooper – Nebraska State Probation
Pam Cardenas – Judicial Administrator