What Is a Community Corrections Program?

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Community corrections, sometimes called community supervision, is a method by which agencies or legal jurisdictions oversee convicted individuals outside jails or prisons.

The United States criminal justice system considers these correctional strategies viable sentencing alternatives to incarceration.

In 2020, there were 3,890,400 individuals under community supervision, as opposed to 1,691,600 in prisons and jails.

Suppose you know someone eligible for a community corrections program. In that case, you may have many questions regarding what it means and its implications.

What are the types of community corrections? How does each community correction program work? Which government department is in charge of community corrections? What are the goals of community corrections?

You may also want to dive deeper into the topic and ask questions such as: What are the advantages and disadvantages of community corrections? How much does it cost to implement community corrections programs? What are the components of community corrections?  

LookUpInmate.org is an all-in-one site that provides information regarding incarcerated individuals and correctional facilities across the country. 

This article discusses essential information regarding community corrections, including their nature, types, examples, advantages, and disadvantages. 

Read on to know more about community corrections, how it works, and its possible consequences for inmate rehabilitation and public safety.

Introduction to Community Corrections Programs

There are various ways community correction programs address the specific needs of inmates, including mental health, disabilities, and substance abuse. Below is a discussion of the program’s institution and mechanics.

Establishment

In the United States, the idea of “recognizance,” or releasing convicted offenders displaying outward signs of remorse, gained popularity in the 19th century. This concept may have been foundational to the creation of today’s community corrections system.

Community corrections programs have undergone significant changes during the 1970s due to correctional challenges facing the country, such as the staff-to-caseload ratio. 

At the time, many states developed their community corrections policies and regulations.

For example, in 1979, the Indiana Department of Corrections established its Community Corrections Act under Indiana Code 11-12-1-2. The act aims to encourage counties to develop a well-integrated local criminal justice system, which may lessen the state’s expenses in maintaining incarceration facilities. 

Community Corrections Administration and Advisory Board

Each county has different priorities and resources within its criminal justice system. Consequently, a community corrections advisory board manages community corrections agencies.

The advisory board usually consists of local criminal justice department officials, former community corrections participants, and treatment service providers.

Community corrections advisory boards have the following responsibilities:

  • Assigning someone to become a community corrections director.
  • Developing a community corrections strategy, indicating an operational overview of the organization, administration, program components, and limitations.
  • Creating program regulations, policies, and procedures.
  • Formulating eligibility and violation criteria.
  • Allocating the program budget and expenses. 
  • Supporting, monitoring, and evaluating each community corrections program regarding its effectiveness, particularly in lowering recidivism rates.

Placement Into a Community Corrections Program

A region’s community corrections advisory board formulates program eligibility standards. This committee also works with other criminal justice agencies to ensure the correct program placement of eligible individuals.

Community corrections case referrals occur due to the following reasons:

  • Community corrections sentence
  • As a probation sentence condition, such as:
    • Monitoring
    • Adjusted sanction due to a violation rather than jail
    • Collaborative resource initiatives for programs, services, or classes
  • As a parole condition:
    • Monitoring
    • Adjusted sanction due to a violation rather than prison
    • Collaborative resource initiatives for programs, services, or classes
  • Community transition programs
  • Work release programs

Program Components

Community corrections programs vary depending on the jurisdiction’s program budget, staffing support, local community resources, and technological capacity.

A county or state’s department of corrections maintains the community corrections programs through:

  • Adjusted sanctions and incentives: This disciplinary approach allows offenders to correct their behavior through community service, treatment, or a mental health intervention instead of a court-ordered jail or prison sentence.

Moreover, the strategy enables individuals to earn or lose credit time based on their performance. 

Incentives include reduced fees, bus passes, or passes for family events.

  • Public safety accountability: Parole or probation officers conduct in-person supervision to ensure individuals are visiting, working, and living in approved locations.

Sometimes, officers visit offenders’ homes to see if they abide by the probation and parole regulations. These restrictions include curfews and regular drug tests.

  • 24/7 supervision: Some jurisdictions use global positioning system (GPS) technology to track probationers’ and parolees’ activities. On the other hand, secure residential centers allow low-risk participants to have limited access to the community.
  • Case management: Corrections officers assess program participants to determine what services and level of supervision they need. 

Types of Community Corrections Programs at the Sentencing Decision

Probation Supervision

Probation is a court-ordered sentence that, subject to specific regulations,  prevents offenders from serving time in jail or prison.

Moreover, probation requires probationers to frequently report to the probation officer in charge of their case. These public officials supervise probationers’ participation in rehabilitation programs, including community service.

Furthermore, courts can impose additional restrictions based on the nature of a crime. Consequently, defendants can receive specific requirements after their respective jurisdictions have evaluated their risk to the community and reparative needs.

Day Reporting Centers

Day reporting centers can be more intensive than community supervision. Moreover, they seek to provide offenders with access to services or treatments. 

Additionally, those facilities typically monitor offenders who have committed probation violations before.

Day reporting centers can serve as a middle-way sanction between probation and jail. These institutions can also use behavior modification models, levels, or phases to assist in high-risk offenders’ reentry into society.

Community Drug Treatment Programs

Corrections agencies create programs to meet a chronic and occasional substance abusers’ unique needs. Sometimes, these programs use medication to help offenders develop adverse alcohol and drug intake reactions.

Still, other programs use behavioral therapy to prevent relapse and encourage sobriety. Another treatment option involves connecting offenders to their families.

Community Service

Community service is a court-imposed sanction that requires offenders to perform unpaid hours of work for their community.

However, community service can sometimes be problematic because of the difficulty in documenting hours and enforcing compliance.

Restitution

Restitution is court imposition instructing offenders to pay victims a specific amount to offset the victims’ losses. This economic sanction can be an initial step to offenders’ rehabilitation.

Probation and parole officers are usually in charge of restitution collections. 

However, those officials can sometimes collect considerably low amounts from offenders. One reason is that offenders typically work in low-paying professions and have other financial constraints, such as probation fees and treatment costs.

Fines

A fine is a court-ordered fee that offenders must pay. This amount largely depends on the nature of the convicted individual’s crime.

In the United States, law enforcement officers usually issue fines for traffic violations and misdemeanors.

Correctional Boot Camps

Correctional boot camps follow the structure and operation of military camps. These correctional sites confine juvenile (ages 13 to 18) and adult felony offenders. 

The program implements military-like activities to help modify offenders’ character and behavior. Moreover, this program may involve physical conditioning, labor, and drills.

Other Residential Shapes and Sizes

Community corrections programs also depend on factors, including the type of correctional facility and program availability. For example, some jails and prisons have work release programs that allow specific inmates to work in the community under supervision.

Types of Community Correction Programs at Reentry

Prerelease Facility

A prerelease program can hold eligible offenders in a minimum-security residential facility where they can live and work under close supervision. Prerelease facilities are also community centers, halfway houses, and residential community correction facilities.  

Prerelease facilities provide inmates access to various programs to help them overcome their substance abuse, find employment, or manage their finances.

Prerelease facilities also allow program participants to reconnect with their families, find affordable housing and obtain the required medication.

Parole and Post-release Supervision

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

A primary condition for parolees is to observe community supervision guidelines. Consequently, authorized individuals, usually law enforcement officers, regularly visit paroled individuals to ensure compliance with other parole policies.

Sometimes, parolees must observe case-specific conditions designed to protect public safety and ensure the effectiveness of supervision programs.

An example of a case-specific requirement is that paroled sex offenders must comply with the United States’ registration conditions for individuals who have a criminal record of a sex offense.

On the other hand, a mandatory release requires other post-release community supervision. Mandatory releases happen when individuals have already served a specific portion of their prison or jail sentence.  

While a parole board decides whom to release and who remains in corrections facilities, the mandatory release follows established state or local laws.

Goals of a Community Sentence

Community-based corrections seek to accomplish many goals. These objectives include overcoming prison overcrowding and lowering recidivism through surveillance, rehabilitation, and reentry into society.

Easing Institutional Crowding and Cost

Community corrections programs aim to ease crowding in jails and prisons by releasing inmates with a proven track record of good behavior while serving their sentences. 

Consequently, these programs can reduce institutional expenses by transitioning inmates to community supervision.

Surveillance

High-risk offenders are often not eligible for community corrections programs. These individuals often remain in jail or prison until they have proven themselves trustworthy and are less prone to commit reoffense. 

Consequently, trained officers closely monitor offenders under community supervision to ensure compliance with release conditions.

Addressing Problems Related to Criminal Behavior

Another goal of community corrections is correcting problems that correlate with offenders’ criminal behavior. 

Those issues include substance addiction, lack of emotional control, insufficient education or vocational training, trauma, mental disorders, and developmental disabilities.

Community Reentry

The end goal of community corrections is to help offenders reenter the community successfully. 

Community-based correctional programs assist individuals in gradually assuming ordinary citizens’ roles, such as being a parent or an employee, with minimal supervision. This way, eligible offenders may not experience culture shock and have less likelihood of committing future crimes.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice indicates that crime harms the community; sometimes, victims want their offenders to pay them back. 

For example, property crime victims may want perpetrators to restore stolen assets. However, this scenario would be less probable if the criminal goes to jail or prison. 

The concept of restorative justice shows the offender’s responsibility to repair the injustice they have caused.

Community Corrections Programs Before Conviction

Pretrial Supervision

Pretrial supervision allows defendants to live and work as productive citizens until they receive an official sentence from the court.

Defendants can support their families and work with their attorneys to mount their cases. In turn, courts can have more confidence that the accused individual would attend to necessary legal procedures.

Electronic Monitoring and House Arrest

Correctional officers use electronic monitoring to enhance their community-based supervision activities. Authorities can place probationers and parolees under electronic monitoring.

On the other hand, house arrest requires defendants or convicted individuals to remain in their residences within a specific duration. Corrections programs can combine electronic monitoring with house arrest to enforce the curfew. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Community Corrections Programs

Advantages

  • Cost-effective: Many community-based programs cost less compared to incarceration. For example, a 2017 report showed that community supervision was significantly less expensive than incarceration. 
  • Help improve prison overcrowding: Community corrections programs can ease prison and jail crowding by allowing convicted individuals limited access to community services.  

Moreover, community-based programs help reduce the prison population by lowering recidivism.

  • Flexible programs: Another advantage of community corrections is the flexibility of its programs. Consequently, officers can apply these strategies during the inmate’s sentence.  

Disadvantages

  • Net widening: This event happens when prosecutors and juries fill program slots with offenders who do not necessarily require such supervision. These legal authorities can do so simply because the programs exist.

Consequently, offenders might not be able to participate in appropriate programs, increasing the correctional costs.

  • Public safety compromise: Allowing offenders restricted access to society may also compromise public safety. Some convicted individuals may find it easier to commit a criminal offense outside correctional institutions.

Daily Cost of Community Corrections Programs

The daily cost of community-based programs depends on the type of disciplinary procedure. Consequently, credible reports regarding daily community corrections expenditures are scarce.

In 2019, the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit advocacy organization, reported that monthly probation supervision fees might range between $50 and $150. This observation indicates that probationers may have been paying up to $5 per day.

Community corrections programs may be less than incarceration costs because of subsidies, including the fees offenders pay. However, this benefit can be costly to individuals under community corrections.

Do Community Corrections Programs Work?

Community corrections programs work depending on funding, staff training, inmate behavior, and program appropriateness.

Today, many correctional agencies recognize the significance of providing comprehensive services, including mental health consultations, residential centers, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs. 

FAQs

  1. What is the department of corrections’ role in community corrections?

A region’s department of corrections can help provide funding support for community corrections programs. The agency also partners with other local and criminal justice divisions to develop effective ways to supervise, sanction, and rehabilitate individuals.

  1. What is the difference between community corrections and probation?

Probation is a type of community corrections program. Other community-based programs require higher supervision levels, treatments, and interventions than probation.

  1. What are the benefits of a community corrections program?

The community corrections focus on offenders’ treatment, and rehabilitation can result in long-term positive behavior changes for program participants.

Moreover, community corrections programs provide a more affordable and sustainable sentencing alternative to incarceration.

  1. What are the two types of correction?

The two types of corrections are institutional and community corrections.

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

The most common forms of community corrections are parole and probation.

  1. Do you have to stay the night in community corrections facilities?

Some community corrections facilities, such as halfway houses, do not require low-risk offenders to observe a night curfew.

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. The Evolution of Community Corrections
https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/sociology/criminal-justice/community/future-of-community-corrections
3. Promising Strategies in Probation and Parole
https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED170631.pdf
4. Indiana Community Corrections Programs
https://www.in.gov/idoc/re-entry/community-correction/community-corrections-programs/
5. What Are Common Conditions of Probation?
https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/what-are-common-conditions-of-probation-46954
6. Effects of Correctional Boot Camps on Offending
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4073/csr.2005.6
7. How Parole Works
https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works
8. 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
9. Prisoner Reentry: Current Trends, Practices, and Issues
https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/prisoner-reentry-current-trends-practices-and-issues
10. Incarceration Costs Significantly More than Supervision
https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2017/08/17/incarceration-costs-significantly-more-supervision
11. Effectiveness of Community based Correctional Programs: A Case Study
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0032885502238682
12. Corrections
https://bjs.ojp.gov/topics/corrections#recent-faqs-what-is-the-difference-between-probation-and

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