Opelika’s municipal courts form partnership with Southern Union programs

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Special to the Opelika Observer

The City of Opelika Municipal Court and Southern Union State Community
College (SUSCC) are joining forces to give citizens an opportunity to improve their lives.

The ASCEND and Ready to Work Programs at SUSCC will assist in bringing defendants out of situations that might lead to repeat behavior.

“This collaboration is so important for the Opelika community because individuals who
cycle through the criminal justice system have many needs that limit their work-
readiness. It is my belief that job readiness programs can make some measurable
difference, such as curbing repeat offenses,” said Senior Municipal
Probation Officer Denise Rogers.

The court will allow a portion of a defendant’s fines to be dismissed if they complete one of these programs at SUSCC. Judge Ben Hand allowed representatives from the college to give a presentation to citizens in municipal court on June 5.

“Having worked with a similar program in Chambers County for a number of years and seen what a positive impact this type of alliance can make, I am excited to see this expansion of opportunity in Lee County,” said SUSCC Associate Dean of
Institutional Effectiveness Robin Brown.

“ASCEND provides people from all walks of life in our community an opportunity to
move upward. It is a collaborative effort among business and industry, the team at
Southern Union and the individual who is motivated to improve his or her quality of life,” said SUSCC Director of Workforce Development Greg Leikvold.

The programs provide trainees with the entry-level skills and a pathway into a long-term career with one of several industry partners. Curently, Opelika-based companies such as Pharmavite, Flowers Bakery and Baxter are working with SUSCC. Training through these programs is provided at little to no cost to participants.

“We believe that a person that puts effort in improving their life also improves the life of all those around them and thus, helps all of society. This is one way that the court can make sure that a person that has committed a crime has every incentive and every opportunity to rectify wrongs and increase the possibility that they will not return to court under similar situations in the future,” Hand said.

For more information, contact Rogers at drogers@opelika-al.gov or 334-705-5198.

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