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Community Corrections

Community corrections is a range of alternative punishments for nonviolent offenders. There are two basic community corrections models in the United States. In the first model, integrated community corrections programs combine sentencing guidelines and judicial discretion (“front-end”) with a variety of alternative sanctions and parole and probation options. In the second model, some states have instituted programs in which correctional officials may direct already sentenced offenders into alternative sanction programs and parole and probation options (“back-end”).

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Both models are designed to help reduce prison overcrowding and are less expensive alternatives to prison. Widespread development of community correction programs in the United States began in the late 1970’s as a way to offer offenders, especially those leaving jail or prison, residential services in halfway houses. The first state community correction programs began in Oregon, Colorado, and Minnesota as pilot projects with very little government-funded support.

They diverted nonviolent offenders in selected pilot project areas from jails and state prisons into local alternative punishment programs. The programs were referred to as “front-end” sentencing because they allowed judges to sentence offenders to a community-based punishment rather than jail or prison. Rehabilitation programs were the preferred punishment option. In the late 1980’s, prison systems across the country began experiencing serious overcrowding of facilities. The overcrowding served as a catalyst for lawmakers to develop new options for sentencing criminal offenders.

Nineteen states have now enacted various community correction programs. Community correction programs provide many communities with local punishment options as an alternative to prison or jail. These sanction programs are lower cost alternatives to increased prison and jail construction, based on the cost per offender. They provide local courts, state departments of corrections, and state parole boards with a broad range PG 2 of correctional options for offenders under their jurisdiction. The goal is to match the appropriate punishment with the crime.

Community corrections programs are integrated sanctioning strategies which seek to achieve the following goals: The offender is punished and held accountable. Public safety is protected. Victims and local communities receive restitution from felons who work in their present jobs and/or in restitution programs. Community service work increases. Collection of court costs and fees increases due to contractual agreements with offenders who remain in their present jobs. Community corrections offer viable alternatives to incarceration for offenders at various stages of the criminal justice process.

The following is a brief description of many of the alternatives which may be available to offenders: 1. Bail Supervision Programs: While awaiting trial, the accused, rather than being held in custody, is supervised by a member of the community. 2. Restitution Programs: The offender must pay back the victim for damages or loss 3. Community Service Order: A condition on a probation order, or a separate disposition in the case of young offenders, which requires the offender to perform work in the community 4.

Probation: The offender is supervised in the community and must follow the set of conditions (rules) set out in his/her probation order. Conditions of probation include keeping the peace, being of good behavior and obeying the law and reporting regularly to a probation officer and may include a range of other, optional conditions PG 3 5. Intensive Supervision Probation: An alternative to incarceration in the United States which is similar to probation but involves more frequent surveillance and greater controls. 6.

Electronic Monitoring: The offender is fitted with an anklet or bracelet that transmits signals of his or her whereabouts to a correctional officer, allowing the offender to continue with employment or education commitments in the community 7. Parole: A form of conditional release available to offenders who are incarcerated. It is similar to probation but the offender is in the community while still serving some of the prison sentence. When people come into contact with the criminal justice system, they pass through several stages of processing. At each stage, an individual’s risk of re-offending is assessed by criminal justice workers.

Risk assessments are performed by justice professionals on a daily basis: pre-trial, before sentencing, when determining security level in custody, prior to release, and after breaches or critical incidents occur (Hart, 1995). These assessments can be either formal or informal in nature (Milner ; Campbell, 1995). Risk assessment is fundamental to the criminal justice process because it is a means for distinguishing between offenders who are likely to re-offend and those who are at a lower risk for recidivism (Solicitor General Canada, 1998a).

There has been a lot of controversy about the accuracy of risk assessments. Risk assessments are essentially predictions of future behaviour and are subject to error. The result of a risk assessment has serious implications for both the assessed individual and society: for the individual offender, the assessment will decide his or her freedom; for society, it may determine whether a potentially dangerous person will be released into the community. The community requires protection, but at what expense? Clearly, risk prediction has a place in the justice process, but predictions cannot be taken as fact.

Unfortunately, the error inherent in the risk prediction process often results in longer periods of incarceration for certain offenders who are found to be high-risk, but who, when released, do not commit further crimes. Public risk assessment systems are primarily concerned with factors associated with criminal behavior. In corrections, these systems are used by probation, parole, and parole boards to identify offenders who are likely to continue to engage in criminal activities either in lieu of, or after incarceration.

Some of the better known public risk systems used to assign offenders to a recidivism risk category are: Salient Factor Risk Instrument This system have been normed on samples of persons placed on probation or parole based on their arrest, supervision violation, or re-incarceration rate and should not to be used for making custody/security designations. Although some of the factors used in risk assessment are the same factors used for prison classification, there are several that either do not apply (e. g. current employment status, current martial status, etc. ) or are not predictive of prison conduct (e. g. , age at first arrest, associations with criminal peer groups, or maximum custody while others use a level system—Level I, II, III, or IV. At the time of admission, an initial classification instrument is applied. Because little is known about the institutional conduct of a prisoner with no history of incarceration, the initial form places greater emphasis on the prisoner’s current offense, prior record, and other background attributes.

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