Community service alternative has great potential

One in four adults in Lycoming County have not received their high school diplomas.

About 6 percent have less than a ninth-grade education.

So it figures that literacy is a big problem. And studies show there is a huge correlation between a lack of education, lack of employment and recidivism for those who enter the court system.

With that as a backdrop, we think the Lycoming County court system has married the problem with a solution.

In 2012 the court system launched the Changing Lives Through Literacy Program as a community service alternative. Offenders enrolled in the program are mostly those whose criminal records contain retail theft or drug charges.

The program is administered by a judge, probation officer and facilitator and involves reading and discussing books. By advancing the reading and comprehension skills of the participants, the program sets them up to continue their education, often a necessity to getting future employment.

And the participants see that the court system is not the enemy, which increases the likelihood they won’t be repeating crimes.

We love the thinking behind this program. We realize it’s not for every offender, and the county has other worthwhile community service programs.

But when this program is paired with the right participants, it can greatly increase their chances of becoming valuable members of the community.