Community Correction Types, Extent, and Problems.
Community Correction programs in the United States attempt to accomplish many goals. Typically these community correction programs oversee an offender’s time outside of jail or prison. Community correction programs extend all across the United States. Each state has a criminal justice system and laws that are intended to keep the community safe. Once these laws are broken, offenders then enter the criminal justice system and their future may vary depending on the severity of their crime and funding of that state. That is where community correction programs come in. Latessa and Smith define community corrections as, “Numerous and diverse types of supervision, treatment, reintegration, control, restoration, and supportive programs for criminal violators” (pg. 3)
Types of Community Corrections:
There are several community correction programs that offenders can be apart of. Some community correction programs begin pre-imprisonment and some begin after imprisonment and are considered part of their terms and conditions of being released. Some pre-imprisonment community correction programs include community service, restitution, house arrest, and others. Some post-imprisonment community correction programs include probation, work release, shock parole, as well as others.
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Probation is one of the largest type of community correction program in the United States. Latessa and Smith define it as, “ A sentence imposed by the court that does not usually involve confinement and imposes conditions to restrain the offender’s actions in the community. The court retains authority to modify the conditions of the sentence or re-sentence the offender if he or she violates the conditions”(pg.5). Probation is a way for an offender to be under correctional supervision while being a part of the general population and not confined in a jail. According to Latessa and Smith, a study done in 2012 showed that 56% of Americans in the criminal justice system are on probation, that’s roughly about 1,633 per 100,000 residents (pg.5). The purpose of probation is to allow an offender to have another chance in the community, and still be monitored by the criminal justice system to ensure they are not breaking any laws or conditions of their probation.
The second largest community correction program in the United States is parole. Latessa and Smith define parole as, “The release of an offender from confinement prior to expiration of his or her sentence on condition of good behavior and supervision in the community” (pg.5). In the same 2012 study, it was determined that 12% of Americans in the criminal justice system are on parole. 12% is about 353 residents per 100,000. Similar to probation, the purpose of parole is to allow an offender to reintegrate into the community after incarceration, but still be monitored by the criminal justice system to ensure they are not breaking any laws or conditions of their parole.
Community service is also another form of community corrections in the United States. Community service is typically non-paid work that is preformed for a specific amount of hours that was imposed by the court system. Most of the time community service hours can be completed at a charitable organization or public service organization. The purpose of community service is to keep small offenses committed by an offender out of jail, and to support the community in which the crime took place.
Restitution programs are court ordered and are a condition of probation. This form of community corrections requires an offender to make financial payment to the victim of their crime or supporting funds to assist the victim with services. The purpose of restitution is for an offender to compensate the victim for their loss and serves as a way for the offender to be held accountable for their crime.
House arrest is another form of community corrections that requires the offender to stay in their place of residence for periods of time throughout the day. There are minor exceptions to when an offender can leave their home such as work, grocery shopping, and community service. A part of being on house arrest means the offender has to wear an electronic monitor to track their movements and ensure they are not breaking the rules of house arrest. The purpose of this community corrections program is to ensure the offender is confined to their home and not a danger to the community.
Some offenders may not be on house arrest but are still monitored by electronic monitors. This form of community corrections ensures that the inmate is home by their scheduled curfew. Often times electronic monitoring comes with visits from an offenders probation or parole officer as well as routine drug testing. The purpose of electronic monitoring is so the criminal justice system can still track an offender’s movement and ensure they are abiding by the conditions, but allows them to also begin to integrate back into the community.
Community residential centers, also known as halfway houses are another form of community correction. Community residential centers are residential facilities that are non-confining and are intended as an alternative to jail for those who may need assistance with reintegrating back into the community. Its purpose is to assist those who may not be fully ready to integrate back into the community on their own. Typically these community residential centers come with programs that can help the offender once they are back on their own in the community.
Extent of Community Corrections:
Community correction programs can start prior to imprisonment or post imprisonment. Although there are programs that are post imprisonment, some programs can be combined with incarceration. In chapter two, figure 2.3 illustrates different types of community corrections. According to the figure, prison, jail, work release, halfway houses, house arrest and electronic monitoring are all considered residential and most restrictive forms of community corrections. Intensive supervision, day reporting, probation, community service, financial sanctions and pretrial diversions, are considered nonresidential and least restrictive forms of community corrections (pg.32). The extent of community corrections is primarily going to focus on probation and parole, as these forms of community corrections are the most commonly used in the United States.
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Latessa and Smith state, “Probation is a conditional sentence that avoids an offender being incarcerated; in other words, it is an alternative disposition available to the court” (pg.42). Many criminologists describe probation as providing an offender with a second chance. What makes probation so popular is that it does not confine an offender to an institution or their home, but also does not allow the offender to be released from the criminal justice system and court authority. When an offender is granted probation, supervision by a probation officer is implemented and there are terms and conditions of probation, which an offender is expected to follow. Probation can be granted for adults and juveniles, and it can even be used on a federal level.
There are several factors that go into a judge decision to grant probation. Factors such as a defendants educational level, monthly salary, occupation, residence, stability, and participation in the community are just a few. These factors are ranked and compared to the defendants prior records and number of arrest. Once probation is granted, the offender is now responsible for abiding by the terms and conditions of their probation. These terms and conditions imposed on an offender are suppose to be monitored by their probation officer. Offenders are expected to follow both the general and specific terms and conditions of their probation. General conditions of probation are typically conditions that all offenders on probation are to abide by. Specific conditions of their probation are more specific to the needs of that offender. Part of being on probation means an offender is responsible for paying probation fees. According to Latessa and Smith, probation fees can range between $10 and $120 per month (pg.62).
A condition of being on probation could be an offender is responsible for paying restitution to its victim, or the offender is responsible for doing community service. Restitution requires an offender to make monetary payments to their victim to offset the damages done from their crime. Community service is a condition of probation that is often used if there is no direct victim. There are also alternative probation procedures such as split sentences, and modification of sentences that can be imposed on an offender.
Parole is another largely used form of community corrections. Parole is the release of an offender either temporarily or permanently before they complete their sentence. Being granted parole typically means an offender is going to be on good behavior while they are reintegrating into the community. In order for an offender to be granted parole they must first go before the parole board. According to Latessa and Smith a parole board is, “any correctional person, authority, commission, or board that has legal authority to parole those adults (or juveniles) committed to confinement facilities, to set conditions for behavior, to revoke from parole, and to discharge from parole” (pg. 89). Depending on the offense, parole boards can even shorten a prisoner’s sentence.
Typically, if an offender is given an indeterminate sentence, they can be granted parole. An indeterminate sentence is a range of time given by a judge or prosecutor. There is no definite amount of time that an offender has to serve. Due to that, prisoners can be sentenced 5-20 years, and be incarcerated only 5 of those years and are granted parole for the remaining. Nearly every jurisdiction in the United States has a parole system.
There are two types of releases when it comes to parole. Discretionary release is described as the parole of an inmate from prison prior to the end of the maximum sentence. Mandatory release is the release of an offender by a parole board because they have served the equivalent of the maximum sentence. When it comes to mandatory release, typically the offender was not released for parole prior to them serving their maximum sentence that was imposed by the court.
Several factors influence parole decisions. When determining parole, parole boards look at factors for granting parole based on the probability of recidivism, factors for granting parole other than probability of recidivism, and factors for denying parole other than probability of recidivism (pg. 103). Ultimately, parole decisions are based off of that states specific statue. If an offender is granted parole, they do have conditions of their parole that they are expected to follow. Latessa and Smith describe the release of parole as a contract between the state and the offender (pg. 104). If an offender abides by the conditions of their parole then freedom is granted, but if they do not there is a possibly that their parole can be revoked and they can be returned back to jail. Like probation, there are general conditions and specific conditions that an offender must follow while they are on parole.
Problems with Probation and Parole:
There are problems with both probation and parole. Neither are one hundred percent perfect, nor not everyone granted release on probation or parole are going to follow the conditions of it. Neither probation nor parole has been found to reduce recidivism.
The U.S Department of Justice believes there are several issues with probation. These issues are outlined in an scholarly article titled Critical Issues in Adult Probation written by Harry E. Allen, Eric W. Carlson, and Evalyn C. Parks in September of 1979. Their article outlines several issues with probation such as issues with probation management, issues with probation caseload predictions and treatments, as well as issues within probation research. One of the issues that stood out to me the most in regards to issues with probation is the issue facing an offender’s probation treatment. A part of their probation treatment is predicting the offenders expected future behavior. Due to predictions being intuitive, you never really know if an offender is going to abide by the conditions of parole or not. That can be a challenge, especially if the offender does not abide by the conditions of their probation and is sent back to prison. At that point, resources have been wasted because of an intuitive decision.
Out of all community correction programs, parole faces the most challenges. There are several criminologists who seek to have indeterminate sentencing and parole completely abolished. Some find that parole in ineffective and a waste of taxpayer’s money. There are also legal challenges to parole. According to Latessa and Smith, “The basic legal challenge raised against parole was that the placing of control over sentence length and criminal penalties in the hands of a parole board was unconstitutional (pg. 94). Lawsuits have focused on the separation of powers, and clauses in the federal and state constitutions. Those involved in these suits believe that parole release is an impairment of judicial sentencing power, improper delegation of legislative authority, and usurpation of the executive branch’s power of clemency (pg.94).
- Latessa, E. J., & Smith, P. (2015). Corrections In The Community(6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
- Allen, H. E., Carlson, E. W., & Parks, E. C. (1979). Critical Issues in Adult Probation. 1-258. Retrieved February 7, 2019, from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ciap.pdf.
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