Walker proposal would allow community service for misdemeanor offenses

Pine Bluff Alderwoman Thelma Walker believes she has devised a “win-win” situation for the city and individuals who are unable to pay fines and court costs imposed after their convictions on misdemeanor offenses, including violations of municipal codes.

Walker is proposing that offenders be enabled to satisfy their judgments by performing work on city property, primarily on street and alley cleaning projects. Walker’s proposal will be presented in ordinance form at Monday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at the civic center. The legislation is currently due to receive only an initial reading.

“I think this would save the city money and give some help to those offenders who need it,” said Walker, who added that the city doesn’t profit from issuing and serving warrants on and having people placed in jail for non-payment of fines and court costs. “But the city can benefit from having those offenders out cutting grass or picking up trash or doing other work. And the offenders who might have been going to jail could have lost their regular jobs, but this way they could keep on working and and nobody would lose anything.”

The ordinance notes that state law authorizes cities to adopt legislation allowing such arrangements.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office oversees participants in a similar program in which misdemeanor offenders work off fines in “Clean Team” activities. The male crews are frequently seen cleaning along the interstate and other primary roadways while accompanied by uniformed deputies.

In May, the county quorum court approved an agreement with the sheriff’s office for offenders’ work at the county recycling center. The crews there are primarily female.