Court-ordered community service allows a person convicted of a crime to work for a community in exchange for a reduction of fines or imprisonment, or both, according to FindLaw. Sometimes, this alternative type of sentence can be substituted for an entire prison sentence.
Court-ordered community service can be related to the type of crime committed by the offender. FindLaw notes, for example, that a judge might order a person found driving under the influence of alcohol to give presentations about problems caused by drunk driving to school-aged children. In some cases, offenders can choose the type of community service they wish to perform.
Blue Avocado reports that people ordered to perform community service can sometimes complete their service in nonprofit organizations. Courts use community service as an alternative sentence for nonviolent offenders because it costs less than incarcerating them, and can benefit nonprofits or a community as a whole. Judges also believe this type of sentence can educate offenders about ethical behavior. Blue Avocado also notes that one downside of court-ordered community service is that some offenders do poor work and resent having to complete the alternative sentence.
Procedures and laws for court-ordered community service vary from state to state, says FindLaw.