The Alternative Service Program was initiated by the 1st Division of the 52nd District Court in 1986, under the direction of Judge Michael Batchik, and is used as a sentencing alternative to jail. This program is for non-violent misdemeanor offenders who would otherwise have been sentenced to jail. The program provides an alternative to incarceration by allowing the offender to complete their obligation to the court by performing unpaid labor for the community through non-profit organizations and/or units of government.
The offenders assigned to perform Alternative Service are supervised by court appointed retired police officers Bill Chatfield and Bill Brown. Bill Chatfield supervises what is known as the Community Service Garden located in Commerce Township. Early each spring, the garden is planted and work crews maintain and cultivate it throughout the season. The produce is then harvested and distributed to local charities, including Senior Citizen's Villa, Oakland County Food Bank, Pontiac Lighthouse, and nursing homes. The Community Service Garden produces an excess of 700 bushels of fresh vegetables, and values over $12,175.00. The defendants are prideful in their work and often return at harvest to witness the result of their labor.
Bill Brown supervises numerous other aspects of the Alternative Service Program. Throughout the entire year, work crews perform labor at participating organizations, such as Lakeland High School, Charter House, and Novi Parks and Recreation. They work closely with the staff of each organization and perform various maintenance duties. Charter House is a convalescent home and duties there include painting projects, laundry, cleaning the kitchen, taking out garbage, and any other general housekeeping tasks. Work crews at Novi Parks and Recreation rake leaves in parks, maintain flowerbeds, pick up litter and sticks, and often repair and build park benches. The same types of duties are performed by work crews at Lakeland High School, which saves the school district money while utilizing the work skills of the defendants.
Defendants working in the Alternative Service Program also assist a charitable organization called the Walled Lake FISH Program. The last Monday of the month throughout the year, FISH distributes food to needy families in the area. The food is donated by all the school districts in the community. The program is run by senior citizens, and the work crew helps them with the labor aspect. The defendants pack the grocery boxes, then carry those boxes out to the people's vehicles. The FISH Program has been in operation for 43 years and the 1st Division of the 52nd District Court is proud to offer labor through the Alternative Service Program.
The judges of the 1st Division of the 52nd District Court will continue using the Alternative Service Program as an alternative jail sentence for defendants. It offers tremendous benefits to the community by saving taxpayers the cost of incarceration.