Managing and Reducing the Risk of Community Corrections
Community corrections is defined as, “A model of corrections based on the assumption that reintegrating the offender into the community should be the goal of the criminal justice system” (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2013, p. 58). Community corrections covers many types of offenders including defendants on pretrial release, defendants with open cases in special courts, offenders who pled guilty and are given an intermediate sentence, offenders who have completed an incarceration term and released on supervision, or offenders with split sentencing (McGarry, 2013). The pre-offenders, offenders, or pre-entry offenders are given community supervision in order to achieve positive and successful re-entry back into society. As members of society and the criminal justice system, community corrections can be managed to reduce risk by analyzing the continuum of sanctions.
The continuum of sanctions refers to providing a wide range of criminal sanctions and strategies for social control based on the criminal violation and the offender’s response to the sanction (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2013). As members of society, we must determine what type of criminal violations intermediate sanctions can be applied in. Society ultimately gives law enforcement, the judicial system, and the corrections system the authority to enforce, interpret, and carry out punishment for violations of social behaviors it agrees are unacceptable. In turn, society should elect representatives in order to pass legislation that reflects its views. Inside of the legislation should be transparent continuum of sanctions applied to criminal law according to the type of offense. For instance, selling cigarettes on the side of the street should be met with a low control sanction such as a fine; however, a drug offense should be met with drug courts and drug treatment programs. Society must work with legislators in order to approve the continuum of sanctions.
As members of the criminal justice system, community corrections can be managed from a law enforcement, judicial, and correctional perspective. Law enforcement agencies must properly train officers concerning the new community corrections strategy. Policies must be changed and maintained in order to provide officers with the proper discretion to fine, arrest, or to provide rehabilitative services to potential offenders. Police officers must be given support and discretion and become an essential role in community policing strategies. In this light, the judicial system can serve a similar purpose. The judicial system must analyze the continuum of sanctions in order to discern effectiveness. Judges must have a wide range of sanctions in accordance to the punishment of criminals. If a law lacks substantial effectiveness in punishment, judges must work to change the sanctions. Law enforcement and the judicial system must be given discretion, so dangerous offenders do not “slip through the cracks.”
The correctional system has the most import job in protecting society in light of community corrections. The correctional system must keep control of the progress of offenders through the programs, for this would ensure accountability and keep the integrity of community corrections. The correctional system should form a strong support system of the continuum of sanctions. If an offender violates a sanction, the offender should be given a harsher sanction. Likewise, if an offender is progressing through programs, the sanctions may be lessened. “As jails and prisons become more crowded, selected offenders can be moved to less-restrictive options, such as work release programs” (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2013, p. 223). Offender maintenance can catch offenders who will recidivate early in the process before they become a danger to society. Offenders who do not show progress may be subject to harsher sanctions and intense supervision.
Clear, T., Cole, G., & Reisig, M. (2013). American Corrections. Belmont: Cengage Learning.
McGarry, P. (2013, July). The Potential of Community Corrections to Improve Safety and Reduce Incarceration. Retrieved from VERA: Institute of Justice: https://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/potential-of-community-corrections.pdf