To a group of suspected gang members in East Nashville, community service was just another racket: If you had enough money, you could buy your way out of it, The Tennessean reports. Federal prosecutors say the gang faked court-ordered community service work with the help of a local nonprofit devoted to fighting gangs and violence. Members acted with impunity, because of a lack of oversight by probation agencies.
A wide-ranging gang racketeering case exposed an apparent lack of checks and balances, allowing a handful of criminals to buy their way out of performing community work and cheating the criminal justice system of an alternative form of punishment, education, and rehabilitation. Administrators say budget constraints make it impossible to check on whether everyone ordered to perform community service work actually does it. Judges have dealt with the problem for years, sometimes creating their own systems of accountability where government has not.