Community-Based Corrections

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Community-based corrections, also known as community corrections, are ways that governmental bodies supervise law offenders outside prisons or jails. The United States criminal justice system views these correctional approaches as viable sentencing alternatives to jail or prison sentences.

In 2020, the offender population under community supervision was 3,890,400, compared to 1,691,600 in prisons and jails.

If you know an individual eligible for a community-based corrections program, you may wonder what that means and its implications.

What are community-based corrections? What are the different types of community-based corrections, and how does each program work? Which government agency is in charge of community-based corrections?

Moreover, if you are a criminology student, you may also want more details and ask questions like: What are the components of community-based corrections? What are the goals, advantages, and disadvantages of community-based corrections to inmates and public safety?    

LookUpInmate.org is your go-to website that provides information regarding inmates and correctional institutions nationwide. This article provides crucial information on community-based corrections, including their nature, types, programs, and examples. 

Read on to understand community-based corrections, how it benefits incarcerated individuals, and their real-world advantages and disadvantages.

About Community-Based Corrections

There are different ways community-based correction programs can meet the unique needs of inmates, including those with disabilities, mental health, and substance abuse. The following sections discuss the program’s institution and formats.

Goals of a Community Sentence

Community-based corrections aim to achieve many objectives. These goals include lowering recidivism, overcoming prison overcrowding, and helping inmates reintegration into the community.

Recidivism refers to the tendency of an inmate to reoffend. 

Community programs may implement correctional supervision and diversion programs to help facilitate inmates’ reentry into society.

Easing Institutional Crowding and Cost

Community-based corrections programs can help ease crowding in correctional facilities by releasing inmates who maintain clean track records while serving their sentences. 

Consequently, those programs can lower institutional corrections expenses by helping prisoners transition to community supervision.

Surveillance

High-risk inmates are typically not eligible for community-based corrections programs. These offenders often stay in jail or prison until they have demonstrated their trustworthiness.

Consequently, trained officials closely supervise convicted individuals under community supervision to ensure compliance with their release policies.

Addressing Problems Related to Criminal Behavior

Another goal of community-based corrections is fixing problems with a solid link to the offenders’ criminal behavior.  

Consequently, some community programs focus on substance abuse treatment to help inmates with alcohol or drug addiction. 

On the other hand, some community strategies sustain work-release programs for unemployed offenders.

Other issues community-based corrections may address include insufficient education or vocational training, lack of emotional control, mental disorders, trauma, and developmental disabilities.

Community Reentry

The ultimate goal of community corrections is to aid offenders during their reentry into society.

Community-based corrections programs help individuals gradually resume ordinary citizens’ roles, such as being a parent, a spouse, or an employee, with minimal supervision. 

These programs help eligible individuals not experience culture shock and lessen their likelihood of reoffense.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice implies that crime negatively affects the community; sometimes, victims want their offenders to pay them back. 

For instance, property crime victims may want arrested thieves to restore stolen assets. However, this scenario would be less likely if the criminal goes to correctional institutions.

The underlying concept of restorative justice indicates the convicted individuals’ responsibility to repair the injustice they have committed.

Community Corrections Programs Before Conviction

Pretrial Supervision

Pretrial supervision gives defendants a chance to live and work as productive members of society until they receive an official judgment from the court.

  This way, defendants can support their loved ones and work with their attorneys to establish their cases. In turn, legal courts may have more confidence that the detained individuals would attend to necessary legal operations.

Electronic Monitoring and House Arrest

Correctional staff uses electronic monitoring (EM) to improve their community-based supervision programs. 

Law enforcement agencies may put parolees or probationers under electronic monitoring.

Meanwhile, house arrest requires the accused or convicted individuals to remain in their homes within a specific duration. Corrections programs may use EM and house arrests to enforce this curfew.

Types of Community Corrections Programs at the Sentencing Decision

Probation Supervision

Probation is a court-imposed judgment that is subject to particular regulations, preventing convicted individuals from serving time in jail or prison.

Probationers must regularly report to the probation officer responsible for their case. These public employees supervise probationers’ engagement in their rehabilitation programs, including community service and treatment referrals.

Furthermore, legal jurisdictions may implement additional rules based on the nature and extent of the crime. 

Therefore, accused individuals may receive particular requirements after their respective courts have assessed their risk to the community and reparative needs.

Day Reporting Centers

Day reporting centers can be more intense than community supervision. These facilities seek to provide eligible individuals access to treatments and services.

Additionally, these institutions typically track and supervise offenders who have committed probation violations.

Day reporting centers can function as a middle-way sanction between jail and probation. These facilities may also apply behavior modification levels, models, or phases to help high-risk offenders reenter society.

Community Drug Treatment Programs

Corrections committees create programs to address chronic or occasional substance abusers’ unique needs. 

Sometimes, these programs use prescriptive drugs to help offenders develop adverse drug and alcohol reactions.

Other treatment programs apply behavioral therapy to prevent relapse and encourage sobriety. Another possible treatment involves reconnecting offenders to their loved ones.

Community Service

Community service is a court-issued punishment requiring offenders to work unpaid hours for their community.

In some cases, community service can be problematic because of the difficulty in documenting activities and enforcing compliance.

Restitution

Restitution is a court decision that instructs criminals to pay victims a specific amount to offset their losses. This financial sanction can be the first step to offenders’ rehabilitation.

Probation and parole officials are generally in charge of restitution collections. 

However, those public servants may sometimes collect a significantly lower payment from lawbreakers. 

One reason is that these offenders typically work low-paying jobs and have other financial obligations, such as probation and treatment costs.

Fines

A fine is a court-mandated fee that offenders must pay. This amount primarily depends on the convicted individual’s committed crime.

In the United States, law enforcement officials usually issue fines for low-level offenders, including those who have committed misdemeanors and traffic violations.

Correctional Boot Camps

Correctional boot camps follow the operation and structure of military camps. These correctional locations confine juveniles (ages 13 to 18) and adult state or federal law violators.  

The program imposes military-like activities to help change offenders’ behavior and character. 

This strategy may also involve labor, physical conditioning, and drills.

Types of Community Correction Programs at Reentry

Prerelease Facility

A prerelease program may confine eligible offenders to a minimum-security residential establishment where they can live and work under close monitoring. 

Prerelease facilities can be community centers, halfway houses, or residential community correction facilities.  

These facilities give inmates access to programs to help them overcome their substance abuse, find a job, or manage their assets.

Moreover, prerelease facilities may help offenders reconnect with their loved ones, find affordable housing, and get adequate medical services.

Parole and Post-release Supervision

Parole refers to convicted individuals’ early and conditional release before they complete their original criminal sentences.

A primary condition for parolees is to obey their community supervision rules. Therefore, authorized professionals, usually law enforcement officers, routinely visit paroled individuals to ensure compliance with their parole regulations.

Sometimes, parolees must follow case-specific conditions developed to protect public safety and ensure the efficacy of supervision programs.

One example of a case-specific condition is when paroled sex offenders must follow the United States’ registration conditions for individuals who have previously committed a sex offense.

However, a mandatory release may require different post-release community supervision programs. 

Mandatory releases happen when offenders have already served a specific portion of their criminal sentences.  

While a parole board decides who will receive early release from corrections facilities, the mandatory release is a consequence of established state or local laws.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Community-based Corrections Programs

Advantages

  • Help lessen prison and jail overcrowding: Community-based corrections programs can help reduce prison and jail overcrowding by allowing offenders to have regulated access to community services.  

Additionally, community-based programs may help lower an institution’s inmate population by reducing recidivism.

  • Low cost: Many community-based programs cost less compared to institutional ones. For example, a 2017 report indicated that community supervision was considerably less expensive than incarceration. 
  • Flexible programs: Another benefit of community-based corrections is the programs’ flexibility. Consequently, the prison staff may implement these strategies during the inmate’s sentence.

Disadvantages

  • Net widening: This situation happens when juries and prosecutors place offenders in supervision programs they do not need. These legal authorities may do so just because the programs exist.

Therefore, convicted individuals may be unable to join appropriate programs, increasing the correctional cost.

  • Public safety compromise: Allowing individuals with criminal records restricted access to the community can compromise public safety. Some offenders may find it easier to reoffend outside of correctional institutions.

Daily Cost of Community Corrections Programs

The daily cost of community-based corrections programs depends on the disciplinary procedure. Comprehensive reports concerning daily community corrections expenses are scarce.

In 2019, the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization, reported that monthly probation supervision fees fall between $50 and $150. 

This data indicates that individuals under probation may have been paying up to $5 daily.

Community corrections programs can be less expensive than institutional corrections programs because of subsidies, including the amount offenders pay. 

Still, this benefit comes at a high cost to individuals under community-based corrections.

Bureau of Community Sanctions Overview

Community sanctions refer to penalties and programs for convicted individuals that do not involve imprisonment. 

Some states have agencies that determine and evaluate disciplinary measures for offenders.

For instance, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction tracks and distributes funds provided to private vendors and local jurisdictions. 

The agency’s monitoring activities aim to establish residential services and community sanctions for adult offenders who are reintegrating into society. 

Community sanctions may fund the programs below.

Halfway Houses

Halfway houses are community-based residential programs that provide treatment services and supervision for convicted individuals released from state prisons.

Officials may confine individuals in halfway houses if they have violated supervision regulations.

Permanent Supportive Housing

Some states may provide permanent housing to eligible offenders. The primary aim of this program is to prevent released individuals’ entry into the homeless service system.

Another possible benefit of such an initiative is lowering recidivism by helping released individuals get back on their feet.  

Committees may prioritize offenders with records of homelessness or those at-risk of homelessness upon their release.  

These individuals typically include offenders with severe mental health conditions, developmental disabilities, and addictions.

Transitional Control and Treatment Transfer

Transitional control refers to a prison program created to facilitate eligible offenders’ reentry into society. 

Community Corrections Act Programs

In the United States, the principle of “recognizance,” or releasing inmates who display external signs of remorse, gained popularity in the 19th century. 

This idea may have helped create and develop today’s community corrections system.

Community-based corrections programs experienced significant changes during the 1970s because of the country’s correctional issues, such as the staff-to-caseload ratio. 

At the time, many states began to develop their own community corrections policies.

In 1979, the Indiana Department of Corrections inaugurated its Community Corrections Act under Indiana Code 11-12-1-2. 

The act seeks to encourage local jurisdictions to develop a well-integrated criminal justice system, which can reduce the state’s expenses in maintaining correctional institutions.

Moreover, each county may have different priorities and tools within its criminal justice system. 

Thus, a community-based corrections advisory board supervises community-based corrections agencies.

The advisory board typically consists of local law enforcement, former community-based corrections participants, and treatment providers.

A region’s advisory board on community-based corrections establishes program eligibility standards. 

This group also works with other criminal justice committees to ensure the correct program placement of convicted individuals.


Community-Based Correctional Facilities

Community-based correctional facilities are secure residential locations where offenders may access community services such as substance abuse treatment, education, and employment.

Moreover, community-based corrections services largely depend on the agency’s program budget, local community resources, staffing support, and technological capacity.

Training Opportunities for Community Corrections Program Staff

Many states provide training programs for community-based correctional officers or staff members. 

For example, Ohio offers introductory training courses under the Ohio Probation Officer Training Program. 

FAQs

  1. What is the most common form of community corrections?

Parole and probation are the two most common forms of community corrections.

  1. What is the other term for community-based corrections?

You may use “community corrections” as an alternative term to “community-based corrections.” 

If the topic of community-based corrections interests you, you may find additional resources on places such as the United States Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice’s websites.

You may note that official government websites in the United States use “.gov.”

References

1. Correctional Populations in the United States, 2020 – Statistical Tables
https://bjs.ojp.gov/library/publications/correctional-populations-united-states-2020-statistical-tables
2. Prisoner Reentry: Current Trends, Practices, and Issues
https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/prisoner-reentry-current-trends-practices-and-issues
3. Effects of Correctional Boot Camps on Offending
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4073/csr.2005.6
4. How Parole Works
https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works
5. The National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification
https://www.justice.gov/archive/tribal/docs/fv_tjs/session_3/session3_presentations/Sex_Offender_Guidelines.pdf
6. Effectiveness of Community based Correctional Programs: A Case Study
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0032885502238682
7. Incarceration Costs Significantly More than Supervision
https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2017/08/17/incarceration-costs-significantly-more-supervision
8. New data: Low incomes – but high fees – for people on probation
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2019/04/09/probation_income/
9. Bureau of Community Sanctions
https://drc.ohio.gov/community
10. The Evolution of Community Corrections
https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/sociology/criminal-justice/community/future-of-community-corrections
11. Indiana Community Corrections Programs
https://www.in.gov/idoc/re-entry/community-correction/community-corrections-programs/
12. Corrections
https://bjs.ojp.gov/topics/corrections#recent-faqs-what-is-the-difference-between-probation-and

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