The state has awarded about $650,000 in grants to 10 counties and Baltimore so they can begin or expand community service programs for nonviolent offenders.
With such programs in place, supporters said, judges will be able to sentence more offenders to community service instead of putting them in jail or on probation.
That could free up jail beds and probation agents for more serious offenders. "I see this as a prevention measure so a first-time offender can learn something," Gov. William Donald Schaefer said at an awards ceremony in Annapolis last week.
Baltimore -- where offenders sentenced to community service often paint, do carpentry or work for charities -- received a $67,158 grant to expand its program. Baltimore County received $50,646 for an automated tracking system.