Community Service refers to service that a person performs for the benefit of his or her local community. People become involved in community service for a range of reasons - for some, serving community is an altruistic act, for others it is a punishment. It is also an alternative sentencing technique in a justice system.
Community Service is only one of a variety of alternative sentencing techniques designed to be more effective at reforming perpetrators, to reduce recidivism, to benefit society, and to reduce the overall cost to society of sentencing criminals.
Alternative Sentencing is a form of community service, by which convicted individuals are required to perform charitable services either entirely or partly in lieu of other judicial remedies and penalties.
For instance, a fine may be reduced in exchange for a prescribed number of hours of community service. In some cases, the subject may be able to choose their community service, which then must be documented by credible agencies, or they may be ordered by the judge to perform certain services or work for certain agencies.
Sometimes the sentencing is specifically targeted to the subject's transgression. Examples of this may range from sentencing a litterer to pick up litter along the highway, to a drunk driver being required to appear before school groups to explain why drunk driving is a crime and an ethical breach. The philosophy behind alternative sentencing is at least partially that providing services that benefit society is a more constructive way to punish perpetrators. It is also thought to be a way to introduce the idea of ethical action into the value of the perpetrator.