OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma County non-violent offenders hacked at holly bushes in Thursday afternoon’s 100-degree heat. They were serving the community instead of serving time behind bars as part of the Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere (SHINE) program. Those in the program do everything from landscaping and park cleanups to beautifying blocks covered in graffiti.

James Campbell is a supervisor to the offenders out working in the city. He said the physical labor forces them to think about what they’ve done.

“It works. It’s a deterrent. A lot of these people have never worked a hard day in their life and they come out here and they have to,” he said.

County Commissioner Brian Maughan said this could be the first step toward a solution for county's jail overcrowding problem.

“We save the county money by not having them incarcerated and we’re saving the community money by being able to do all these things … that otherwise we couldn’t do,” he explained.

The offenders in SHINE were sentenced for what officials called low-level, non-violent crimes.

Commissioner Maughan said he hopes judges will lawfully sentence more non-violent criminals to this kind of punishment. He said he also hopes the public can come to grips with the idea that community service is not soft on crime.

“In fact this is probably the toughest thing we can do to crime because in a jail they’ll have an air conditioned cell and they’ll have a cot and they get three square meals a day that they don’t have to pay for,” Commissioner Maughan explained. Offenders that participate in SHINE are responsible for their own transportation, health care, clothing and food on top of their personal commitments, he added.

And if more offenders are put to work instead of being thrown in the slammer, Maughan said the program's expansion will pay for itself. “The more offenders we have, then the fee that they pay for being in this program is what pays for the supervisor so it will proportionally address itself, largely,” he told News 9.

Maughan also encouraged anyone with a potential cleanup project for the offenders to call his office at 405-713-1502.