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Showe helps show first-time offenders an alternative to jail

October 30, 2007|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN ? Thanks to people like Sharon Showe, there's an alternative to jail time or court costs and fines for those found guilty of minor crimes in the county.

Showe heads up the Alternative Sanctions program at the Washington County State's Attorney's office.

Each county in the state has such a program, Showe said. The clients that are part of the Alternative Sanctions program have committed nonviolent crimes, such as drug, traffic-related, fireworks and minor theft charges.

The program began in the 1990s and was called Diversion. It was meant to reduce the recidivism rate of first-time offenders by providing drug and alcohol treatment, as well as community service.

That program was combined with the community service program in 1993 and renamed Alternative Sanctions, Showe said. She oversees two caseworkers, one who supervises court-ordered community service and the other supervises Diversions clients.

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They currently have 246 active cases. In Washington County, the community service requirements usually range from 25 to 200 hours, Showe said.

In recent months, her job has taken her to community events, such as the second annual Rubbish Roundup sponsored by Antietam Creek Watershed Association. Showe, whose staff was short a work crew supervisor at the time, rolled up her sleeves and pitched in with a work crew of four.

Showe, 55, graduated from South Hagerstown High School in 1970. She worked as a cosmetologist and owned two salons locally before earning an associate's degree from Hagerstown Junior College in business management and accounting.

The Hagerstown resident started working in the public defender's office in 1989, then took a job with the local state's attorney's office in 1994. After several years as a caseworker with the Alternative Sanctions program, she was promoted to director in September 2006.

"Because I started out with the public defender's office as an intake person, I've been fortunate to see both sides. I understand where they're coming from," said Showe, who lives on Antietam Drive.

Alternative Sanctions work crews work on weekends, helping mow and maintain the grounds at Fairgrounds Park and Memorial Recreation Center. They also work with local outlying municipalities maintaining grounds and help C-SAFE with an annual community cleanups.

Other projects for community service including working for nonprofits, such as Community Action Council, Parent-Child Center and Food Resources Inc.

"We always tell our clients our goal is to help them accomplish what the court has ordered them to do. We want to give them the opportunity to comply," Showe said.

In addition to satisfying the court-ordered requirements for community service, Showe said it also presents an opportunity to teach clients new skills and model a good work ethic, something they might not have been exposed to before.

At community events, clients get to see professional career people in action, which can provide the needed incentive for them to want to improve their lives.

Showe is pleased that most of the people in the community who work with her clients treat them with respect. Some of her clients will go on to get jobs with the nonprofits they volunteer with.

In her free time, Showe said likes to scuba dive and go boating in North Carolina with her boyfriend. She is also a NASCAR fan.

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