More than 70% of convicted people remain in communities under supervision. Community Correction is a court sanction for persons convicted of a crime. In Community Correction, offenders may serve parts of their sentences in communities.
Community Corrections work on three primary tenets
- Not all people who break the law are dangerous or violent.
- Community centers attempt to treat behaviors that lead to an offense.
- Community correction centers try to make the transition from prison to society smooth.
This blog offers in-depth details of community centers. We will also understand how they function, and how they benefit society.
Table of Contents
The Goal of Community Corrections
There are several goals that Community Corrections seeks to achieve. Reducing institutional costs, reducing criminal tendencies, and rehabilitation are some broad goals. We will discuss each goal in detail in this section.
Reducing Institutional Costs
For any government, building prisons is an expensive affair. There are restrictions on each prison, such as the number of inhabitants that it can host. There are lawsuits that prisons are liable to face if they exceed capacity. One goal of community correction is to reduce crowding in prisons. Community Correction avoids overcrowding by not imprisoning less dangerous convicts.
Community Corrections also allow prisoners to be eligible for parole. Prisoners get parole when they have served a part of their sentence. Parole can help in ensuring more room for incoming prisoners. Preventing prisons from getting fined and reducing the number of prisons cuts costs. The Parole Officer might conduct a drug test to check the drug abuse during probation.
Reentry into the Community
For an incarcerated individual, reintegration into society can be difficult. Community corrections ensure reintegration programs that ease the transition from prison to community. With minimal supervision, offenders get parental roles and responsibilities.
Community corrections reduce the stigma, culture shock of re-entry from prison to community. Besides easing transition, community corrections can also reduce the chances of recidivism.
Restorative Justice is a means of ensuring that victims get justice. Often, victims may not receive compensation if the offender gets incarcerated. Restorative Justice ensures offender responsibility. Offenders get a chance to repair the damage that they have caused to the victims.
Restorative justice works through victim impact panels, mediation sessions, and volunteer mentoring. Restorative justice is a community corrections program. The offender remains in the community, completes community service, and pays restitution.
Restorative justice is common for property crimes committed by first-time offenders or juveniles.
Different Types of Community Correction Programs
There are three decision points in the criminal justice process. These decision points may call for community corrections. Pretrial, after conviction, and reentry are the three decision points. We will look into the three types of community correction programs in this section.
Pretrial Community Correction before conviction
After the police arrest someone, the prosecutor decides if they should get charged or not. A suspect gets released if there is a lack of evidence to convict them. Once they get charged with a crime, they get termed as 'pretrial defendant.'
A pretrial defendant has to appear before a judge who determines their release. Most defendants get released on their own terms to promise that they will appear again on the next date. Some defendants get released on pretrial supervision. Pretrial supervision is a form of correctional supervision.
Diversion is another form of community supervision in which there is no conviction. Defendants are not acquitted; instead, they complete various conditions of probation. Successful completion of the terms would result in the dismissal of their charges.
Community Correction at the sentencing Decision
Probation is the primary sanction for criminal offenders. About 60% of convicts receive correctional supervision on probation rather than imprisonment. During probation, offenders have to follow conditions imposed by the court. The conditions remain for a defined period of up to 3 years. The conditions get modified if the offender does not follow them. Probation officers track convicts.
Probation officers ensure that they follow the probation terms while in the community. Compared to probation, day reporting centers are more intensive. Day reporting centers are also modes of supervision that occur with probation. Convicts under probation should check in every 3 months. Day reporting centers need them to check in every 3-6 days a week.
Community Service is another aspect of the Community Corrections program. Under community service, offenders need to do unpaid work for community benefit.
As restorative justice is a part of community corrections, convicts must pay victims. The payment will offset some or losses incurred on the victim from their crimes. Judges may also impose fines based on the severity of the crime.
Community Correction at Reentry
As we discussed earlier, a primary goal of community correction involves transitioning. Pre-release facilities and paroles are two areas where community corrections work at reentry.
Pre-release facilities are residential facilities. Offenders can work and live here while they get supervised by authorities. Pre-release facilities may be,
- Community centers.
- Correctional facilities.
- Halfway houses, etc.
Their stay at such facilities allows them to adjust to freedom, get employment and make money.
Parole is a discretionary release of an offender before their sentence ends. The parole board decides who gets released based on several factors. The factors that can assist one's release on parole include:
- The offender's conduct while in prison.
- The Offenders participation in rehabilitative programs.
- Housing and work plans for the offender at their release.
- The reformed attitude of the offender towards crime.
- The victim's reaction to an offender's release.
Addressing Addiction through Community Corrections
Correcting behaviors that are not criminal in nature is another Community Corrections target. Addiction is a behavioral characteristic. Addiction gets corrected with minimal but continued involvement of the criminal justice system.
Offenders struggling with addiction get classes to address their issues while on supervision. Offenders are also given access to treatment programs. The treatment programs are in the community itself as opposed to the prison. Community Corrections use cognitive-behavioral techniques. It selects offenders who have a desire to change.
First-time offenders associated with drug crimes are potential candidates for the program. There are community-based programs that offer meetings up to three times a week. Some of these programs are for chronic abuse. There are programs for occasional users as well.
For chronic abusers, community corrections involve a combination of medication and counseling. Some medications cause adverse reactions to certain substances, while others ease withdrawal symptoms.
Another method in Community Corrections involves the offender's family in their drug treatment. The family acts as a social support system. They encourage the participant through their treatment. Family members get training to help them deal with their loved one's condition.
Community corrections are beneficial for society. From reducing costs to easing transition, community corrections ensures a safe society. The program's flexibility allows its applications at many points in the justice process.
Community corrections are especially effective in handling addiction-related offenses. It is one way that idea of addiction as an illness rather than a crime gets emphasized.