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Fine Option Program - An Alternative to Prison for Fine Defaulters

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 43 Issue: 3 Dated: (September 1979) Pages: 22-27
M Heath
Date Published
6 pages
Saskatchewan's Fine Option Program was developed as an alternative to jail for default of fines.
This provincial Canadian program was designed to provide a reasonable alternative to imprisonment, through community work service for offenders who are unable or unwilling to pay fines, and to reduce costs of the administration of justice. The latter aim was served by reducing offender transportation to prison and by reducing demands on prison facilities. Administrative procedures were simplified so that lay people could be involved. A voucher is used to convert hours of work into dollar credit according to the minimum wage rate (for all jobs) so that no money is involved. The program is flexible and can be adapted to any community resources. The program is aimed at native offenders overrepresented in the prisons for nonpayment of fines. Participation is voluntary, and the program cannot be used as a vehicle to impose treatment. Standards for work options reflect the local community norm. Work placements are to be meaningful to offenders and useful to communities, and should not take employment away from present or potential employees. Welfare benefits are assured offenders, and worker's compensation is available. The offender-worker is also permitted to continue the working relationship with the community once the fine is paid, so that these persons can develop references, a resume, and competence. All offenders are issued a notice of fine when they are sentenced so that they know about the fine option program immediately. The impact of the program on correctional institutions, offenders, and the community after 4 years of operation is very positive. Institutions have witnessed a steady decline in length of incarceration. Offenders receive job offers, upgrade their job skills, and are able to start dealing with their alcohol, social, or financial problems. Communities are able to contribute to the operation of the criminal justice system and to make contacts with offenders they previously feared. To be considered in the future is whether such a program can be used for fines payable to the Federal Government.