Community service: an evaluation of the impact of the community service order scheme in Queensland

Criminology Research Council grant ; (24/82)

This study developed an evaluation model based on six social indicators. The aim was to provide administrators with a relatively simple decision-making tool that measured both the quantitative statistical data and the subjective responses by participants in the scheme.

The Principal Community Programs Officer of the Queensland Probation and Parole Service and an external consultant interviewed 39 participants in the scheme drawn from the Probation and Parole Service, the judiciary and community organisations throughout the State.

The first indicator of the impact of community service in Queensland is community response. The findings were that the scheme was being successfully implemented by charitable organisations, offenders were introduced to make aspects of voluntary work, and had contributed a considerable amount of casual labour.

The second indicator is reponse of the Queensland Probation and Parole Service. Part-time supervisors of community service experienced considerable satisfaction with their work. It was recommended that full-time community service coordinators be appointed in each region and that an in-service training scheme be made available for supervisors.

The third indicator is growth in the scheme. Community service was found to be growing at a faster rate than probation and it was predicted that it would soon become a significant part of the total workload of the Queensland Probation and Parole Service. Forward estimates for staffing were recommended.

The fourth indicator is offender response. This was judged by statistical data on failure to complete the sentence and interview material. A very low failure rate in the first two years was attributed to sentencing patterns by the judiciary who were selecting offenders well suited to voluntary work.

The fifth indicator is cost effectiveness. Supervision of a community service worker costs $1.50 a day compared to $50 a day for a prisoner.

The sixth indicator is reponse by the judiciary. This was measured by growth of the scheme in the two years and the positive response by the small number of representatives who were interviewed.

Community service in Queensland was found to be functioning well because it provided an economical solution to the State, a humanitarian, and, at times, rehabilitative option for the offender, and a significant contribution to the voluntary agencies.

The report contained detailed recommendations on the future development of community service. Following acceptance of the report, the Queensland Probation and Parole Service has already introduced in-service training which commenced in Toowoomba, June 1983. The report, which includes historical and comparative information on schemes elsewhere in Australia and overseas, provides material for in-service training.