The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 23, 2013

Cambria leaders laud ‘role model’

Justin Dennis
jdennis@tribdem.com

NORTHERN CAMBRIA — The Cambria County commissioners held an evening meeting Thursday at Northern Cambria High School. Aside from cleaning the simple administrative tedium from their plates, they gave special recognition to a man who helped draw in close to $750,000 for the county – all through helping convicts in the adult probation program.

The panel of community officials passed, among other things, approvals for a $15,000 expansion to the Northern Cambria Senior Activity Center parking lot and the new county prisoner rate of $68 per day, per prisoner – which is about $30 lower than the state’s rate. They also adopted an agreement to match CamTran’s $25,000 advertising revenue shortfall for the fiscal year – which is $10,000 higher than last year.

As the last agenda item, Commissioner Doug Lengenfelder commended Hal Dues, assistant supervisor of the Community Service Industrial Arts with the Cambria County Adult Probation Department, as being a consistently “strong role model” while helping probationers to pay off their court costs through community service.

This praise came after a time Dues had spent on the wrong side of the law.

Dues was pulling community service after being found guilty of a theft by deception charge. He shined in the job, taking his own initiative to learn skills from his supervisors and prompting Cambria County Senior Judge Gerard Long to take notice.

“He saw that I was very motivated and always busy,” Dues said. “When the judge said, ‘You want to be a supervisor?’ I laughed.

“To know Judge (Gerard) Long – he’s like a father.”

Dues said he felt fortunate to have received the “proper grooming” to help him get a leg up on charges that could haunt future employment. He gave thanks to Long when he shyly accepted his recognition award – for seeing more in him than just another docket number – and also praised President Judge Timothy Creany.

“They know the individual, instead of the crime – that means a lot,” he said.

Community service hours are figured by taking the total court costs held against an offender and dividing it against the minimum wage.

While working with probationers in the program – DUI convicts, minor drug offenders, domestic violence instigators, check bouncers – Dues came to develop personal relationships and, through his supervision, helped them pay off three-quarters of a million in court costs and fees that many owed.

“We may never have recouped any of that,” said Lengenfelder, who sees Dues’ value as a mentor figure to those trying to pay back the community through the program. “(He’s) someone who understands what it means to get into trouble and how to get out of it.”

“We try to take people who made bad choices and correct them,” Dues said. “You can make mistakes and you can get past them.”

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