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Community corrections are a program designed for non-violent offenders whose primary goal is to reintegrate them into the community. They are a form of punishment to the offender. Various alternatives such as house arrest, probation, electronic monitoring may be used. Community corrections are the non-prison sanctions imposed on convicts. For illustration, instead of a prison sentence, a court order forcing the convicts to serve under a house arrest may be issued. This may be imposed on a convicted adult or juveniles. It is done to ensure that the offenders comply with court or parole orders (Alarid et al, 2008). The orders are imposed by probation or parole agencies. Other alternative methods are general community supervision or an offender can report at a day centre. The purpose of Community correction is to rehabilitate offenders.
Community correction began in the United States in 1970s. Initially its main aim was to provide offenders, particularly those leaving prison half houses. These were homes established to provide residential services to the offenders. Originally, states like Oregon and Minnesota began Community correction as a pilot project. As an alternative punishment, nonviolent offenders could be taken to the selected pilot projects from prisons. Formally, offered minimal support to these programs. These programs were known as ‘’front-end’’ sentencing. Rehabilitation of the offenders was seen as a better option than putting them in prisons (Glaze & Bonczar, 2008). Due to increased number of offenders in the 80s, Prison facilities began to overcrowd. This called for lawmakers to think of new options of punishing offenders. They analyzed the various alternatives that were available at the time and realized that Community correction was afar much better choice. They began to enact community correctional programs. The programs have served many communities with an alternative to prisons.
As suggested by Alarid et al, 2008 some of the benefits that the programs provided ranged from economical benefits to better rehabilitation of offenders. The programs are lower in cost compared to putting offenders in prisons. They also provided the appropriate punishment to the nonviolent offenders. Other goals of Community correction are: this form of punishment causes the offender to be accountable for his offences. The Public safety is also protected as these offenders are still under strict supervision. The offenders work in their present jobs ensuring that both the victims and the local communities receive restitution. Their labor ensures that their service to Community increases (Christensen et al., 2004).
The numerous benefits provided by this program have caused several states to adopt it. They have created a network of programs for specified types of offenders. They have also developed a mechanism to provide local government with funds to manage these programs. Some of the programs include a locally integrated judicial system.
The justice system thus created encourages centralized correctional programs. A local corrections board may have county sheriffs, prosecutors, chiefs, defense lawyers and even judges. Local officials can be included to improve justice administration at local level. The judges can therefore sentence an offender based on the alternative punishments at the community level. The sentencing of the offenders facilitates restitution programs. They work and their wages are used to restitute the various court orders or fines that may have been passed against the offender. Placements in the have home may take three to six months (Stroker, 1993). Non-profit agencies or local governments at the local level administer most of these programs. The agencies are funded by the state using a single system that provides local punishments. The agencies can operate on contract basis hence the funds will be provided under contractual basis.
They may also be permanent thus receiving the funds directly from the state. The judges uphold uniform punishment for the offenders depending on the nature of offence that one has committed. The punishments are prescribed based on sentencing guidelines provided. The punishments are tailored for the various crimes that offenders commit (Christensen et al., 2004). A judge should sentence an offender with respect to the severity of the crime he has committed; the frequency and nature of the crime are other factors that should be considered. The sentencing commission periodically adjusts the rating scales of the sentences. The sentences should replicate statewide patterns. Since all nonviolent crimes have low criminal rating, judges have wide variety of sentencing options. However, in case there is a serious or violent crime, judges should impose certain specific sentences. The local government has the responsibility of managing the community correctional service. From sentencing to punishing the offenders while at the same time ensuring the efficient use of local and state correctional property.
Apart from punishing the offenders, the local government has the responsibility of developing program that will post penitentiary release program. This should be operated through a probation system. The post jail program should be followed by a rehabilitation of the offenders back into the community. This is the ‘’back end’’ of offender punishment. They include programs that give the offenders 24-hour residential environment. During this period, the offenders are under supervision as they search for productive employment. Electronic devices to monitor the movement of the offenders are installed at these residential areas. The offenders can also be required to wear bracelets that which allow officials to check their location (Clear & O’Leary, 1983). Counseling services are also provided to the offenders to assist them to re integrate back in the society. Counseling may be provided separately or can be combined with mandatory education programs. Day reporting centers have also been a great assistance in the integration process. In the day reporting centre, offenders discuss their daily activities, particularly the job search with parole officers (Glaze & Bonczar, 2008).
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Nonviolent offenders are categorized in three ways while sentencing them to Community correction programs. The first category is for offenders who can benefit from preventive programs. The group consists of those who are at risk of involvement in a criminal activity in the future. They can be school dropouts, juvenile offenders or someone belonging to youth gang. The second group is made up of offenders who are considered able to benefit from early intervention programs. Offenders in this category have reduced chances of committing more future crimes. For illustration, a fist time offender. They are normally sentenced to services related to skill development, education or substance abuse counseling. The final category consists of offenders who have qualified for diversion programs. These can be people in prison.
There nonviolent behavior in these facilities shows high chances of gain from alternative services. This group mostly consists of second or third time offenders and may face life imprisonment. The aim of sentencing strategy is to match offenders with suitable community sanction. For illustration, if someone who was previously arrested with drugs is arrested today for burglary, alternative community corrections sentencing guidelines provide up to a 24-month jail sentence (Nieto, 1996). The judge may however sentence him to secured community based drug abuse program for duration of six months. Subsequently the offender may also face a short probation period. The judge has a range of options to choose from. Most offenders entering Community correction programs pose no danger to the local communities. The evidence gathered show positive results in the Community correction programs.
Limited Community Correction Programs
The’’ Back end ‘’ efforts are developed to assist prison based offenders to have a smooth transition back in the society. Parole violators with substance related conditions may be put in drug rehabilitation centre. Offenders who have undergone through such programs are followed by compulsory electronic monitoring supervision. These programs are centralized under state correction administration and are not included in the sentencing guidelines. The state funds such programs and is the administrative agent. Correctional advocates believe that the state administered models are more effective (Karp & Todd, 2002). The alternatives used in this category are parole or probation. They argue that judges have a preference intermediate alternative such as drug or alcohol rehabilitation, day reporting or restitution programs instead of probation. If offenders fail in the programs they are put in prison creating a situation called ‘’Net widening’’. Correctional advocates believe that this would not be the case if correctional officials were the ones making community placement decision.
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Intensive Supervision Programs (ISP)
Intensive Supervision (ISP) is a surveillance method requiring high-level offender to be in contact with both correctional officers and community members. This is to ensure close observation of offenders. Surveillance reduces the potential risk that these offenders pose to the community. This calls for increased supervision on the offender by the correctional officers. There should also be more contacts made with the offender and various activities like community service, vocational training and treatment (Clear & O’Leary, 1983). Severe cases may also include drug testing and cur few. The number of ISP offenders varies from state to state. Some states include violent offenders in this program hence their numbers tend to be higher.
Highly trained officers should observe specialized ISP offenders. These falling under this category are offenders with alcohol and drug abuse cases, family violence anger and aggression, sex offences or mental problems. A highly trained officer may be assigned 35 to 45 offenders. The common elements in these programs are that offenders are classified by an objective risk, requirement of a high need service like drug treatment and testing, and there is always an emphasis on seeking employment, several contacts between probation officials and offender, strict procedures for violators and adherence to curfews (Palmer, 1992).
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It is worth noting that technology has been adopted to help in implementing ISP program. Through electronic monitoring, in which it involves attaching a micro chip to the bodies of offenders and connected to a central monitoring base. Geographic Positioning system a remote sensing has made this possible as every move of the offenders in probation is closely monitored. Active as well as passive monitoring over a large distance is possible. The devices used include transmission through the radio, ankle or wrist bracelets and random call that are computerized to the residents of non violent offender. According to Byrne et al., 1989 although it is possible for offenders to be sentenced directly to electronic monitoring, situation such a crowding in jails and violation of previous probation may warrant the offender to be sentenced to electronic monitoring.
The trend on usage of electronic monitoring shows that by 1995 about 50 states used it as compared to 21 back in 1987. Major offenses that warrants such kind of sentencing include violating traffic rules, abuse on spouses, drug related crimes and crime on properties. Research done ion the same show that the rate of re-offending for those sentenced for drug related crime is much lower and these individual show less criminal behaviors as compared to their counter parts under supervision via standardized mechanisms (Enos et al., 1999).
This approach aims at restricting offenders to their place of residence for a certain period of time. It also includes home confinements. It is worth noting that the program only permits the individual only to leave their place of residence for jobs, medications as well as other activities mainly coined to serving the community. Comparing house arrest and home confinement to lets say electronic monitoring, the former is more retaliatory. The major aim of this initiative is to ensure that offenders are confined to their homes (Camp & Camp, 1994). The three major versions of home arrest and confinement include curfews, home incarceration and home denotation. With regards to curfew, perpetrators are required to be at their homes during limited and certain times specifically at night. On how they curry their business outside he curfew time is not regulated. It is worth noting that the initiative can come with other conditions or services. When one is under home detention, they are to be at their place of residence at all times unless attending issues relating to job, education, medication as well as other previously approved actions.
Lastly, according to Gottfredson et al., 1977 home incarceration is the most severe of the three. Perpetrators are compelled to be always at their place of residence. They are more limited and only allowed to attend issues related to religion and medication. Additionally, they are subjected to random contact via various methods such as phone calls to ensure that they are complying. Ideally those to be taken under home arrest are those individuals that have been convicted of felonies that are considered by law to be nonviolent, those in parole or probation and convicted of technical or misdemeanor violations and a group deemed appropriate by the judge. It is no doubt that program has helped several states to have millions of dollars especially in cases where it was used together with other initiatives such as electronic monitoring (Byrne et al., 1989). More importantly, those put under the program have lower rates of recidivism.
From the review of community correction in the United States of America, it is evident that the programs came to play back in 1970s. With increased pressure on the correctional facilities due to increased number of offenders, other alternative were sort after to help decongest jail facilities and provide the offenders with an environment where they can fully get a suitable opportunity to re-evaluate themselves and became good people. Various alternatives such as house arrest, probation, electronic monitoring may be used. Community corrections are the non-prison sanctions imposed on convicts. It is evident that these programs have played a vital role in ensuring that offenders are successfully reintegrated back to the society at a reduced cost to the relevant authorities