Community corrections labor at Glenwood school raises brows
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Some Roaring Fork School District Re-1 parents are concerned about the district’s use of a community correction program to perform labor projects at area schools.
According to Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, the district has utilized the program to do maintenance work at several schools over the past year and a half without any complaints or problems.
But that changed this week.
“I fielded about four calls from parents Wednesday,” Haptonstall said.
The issue was raised when a crew of seven in the community corrections program were raking leaves at Glenwood Springs Elementary School.
Rodney Hollandsworth, administrator of Criminal Justice Services for Garfield County, said the program has been around since 1997. The program is set up through the 9th Judicial District as a sentencing option for people convicted of nonviolent crimes, instead of sentencing them to jail.
The Community Correction Workenders Program clients perform work two days a week for governmental and nonprofit agencies within the judicial district as a form of community service.
Hollandsworth said that people are typically sentenced to between five and 30 days through the Workenders Program. Most of the people involved in the program are serving sentences for DUI or other alcohol-related cases, but that all of the clients are “very low-risk offenders.”
“We have worked with all of the schools for a number of years and have never had any problems,” Hollandsworth said.
A community corrections employee supervises people involved in the Workenders program, and in the case of working at schools during the week, the school is requested to provide an additional supervisor as well, Hollandsworth said. However, when performing work at schools, crews do so from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and usually not during the week, Hollandsworth said.
But parents like Myriah Blair, of Glenwood Springs, who has two students attending Glenwood Springs Elementary – where the crew of seven community correction clients were raking leaves around the grounds during school hours Wednesday – are not so supportive of the program.
“This is a no-brainer,” Blair said. “You do not have these people at our schools with our children.”
Haptonstall said that the concerns have prompted the district to consider suspending the use of the program until administrators can hold a meeting with parents.
“If it turns out that that is something that we’ve got to do, then we will do it. I don’t think that there is any reason to be concerned, but if parents are concerned, then it’s something that we need to look at,” Haptonstall said. “I understand that parents are concerned with the safety of their children; so are we.”
That did not sway Blair’s concern.
She said that the district told her community corrections would not be at the schools during the week, only on weekends when the students aren’t at the school. But that did not happen.
Hollandsworth said that most crews do work only on the weekends, but there is a small group of people who are available to do the community service during the week, who either don’t have jobs or do work during the weekends.
But Blair’s concern is that the clients of the Workenders Program could have more serious convictions in the past.
“Don’t bring in people like that where you don’t know what they’ve done in the past,” Blair said.
Community corrections doesn’t accept anyone with violent crimes, such as domestic violence or sex offenders, according to Hollandsworth. Clients are also administered breath tests every morning before they go out to work for the day to check for use of alcohol.
“We keep track of what they are doing and submit a report to the court that they’ve completed their sentence,” Hollandsworth said.
Haptonstall said that no more work will occur at Glenwood Elementary until a meeting with parents can be organized.
She added that once people hear about how the program works, she hopes parents will feel better about it.