Community Based Corrections

English: National Probation Service - St John'...
English: National Probation Service - St John's Road (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tabetha Cooper

            Many wonder why so many criminal offenders are walking away with what seems to be a slap on the wrist.  Community based corrections is the answer.  But we must remember that initial perceptions can be misleading.  What seems to be a slap on the wrist may in fact be a way to protect the safety of the community while attempting to teach criminals how to live in society.  Community based corrections helps offenders to learn how to obey the rules and regulations set forth by society and to be upstanding members of the community.  In order to accomplish this, a person must understand what sanctions fall under community based corrections, what those sanctions actually mean, and know the goals that community based corrections are trying to reach.
            There are many community based sanctions: restitution, fines, probation, intensive probation, parole, day reporting, deferred sentences, diversionary programs, split sentencing, work release, community service, house arrest, electronic monitory, and boot camp.  These are just a few of the sanctions that fall under the category of community based corrections.  Restitution is a monetary payment ordered by the court to be paid by the offender directly to the victim or to a public fund set aside for victims of crimes (Bartollas, 2002).  Fines are similar to restitution, they are monetary payments ordered by the court to be paid by the offender.  Unlike restitution, fines are payments that go to the court.
             Probation is probably the most popular and widely used form of community based sanctions (Alarid & del Carmen, 2010).  Probation is defined as punishment that allows an offender to stay in the community after his/her conviction with the stipulation that they remain under the supervision of a probation officer and abide by the conditions of probation set forth by the court (Bartollas, 2002).  Intensive probation is like regular probation with stricter supervision of the offenders (Bartollas, 2002), such as more frequent meetings, home visits, job training, and more drug tests. Parole is much like probation as far as community supervision goes but parole is a continuation of a sentence, given at the discretion of a parole board, which gives conditions of early release to offenders serving indeterminate sentences (Alarid & del Carmen, 2010).  Parolees must report to their parole officers, find and maintain jobs, and find stable places to reside.  Day reporting is when an offender on probation must report daily to a special facility.  The facility offers counseling, social skill training and other activities that aid toward rehabilitation (Bartollas, 2002).
            A deferred sentencing is handed down by a judge.  It is generally given to first time offenders or offenders of nonviolent crimes.  Bartollas (2002) defines it as “a sentence that delays conviction on a guilty plea until the sentenced offender has successfully served his/her probation term.”  Diversionary programs are alternative to imprisonment (Bartollas, 2002).  Split sentencing a when a judge feels that an offender needs to see what it is like to be in jail in an attempt to “scare them straight” followed by a set time of probation within the offenders community (Bartollas, 2002).  Work release is given to some offenders who have jobs within the community that they will be able to keep even after their sentence is complete. Bartollas (2002) defines it as the release of an offender from jail during the day so they can maintain employment.  Some jurisdictions allow the offender to complete their sentences on the weekends while others require them to return to the jail every evening.
            The intermediate sanctions under community based corrections are just extensions of probation.  Community service is sentence that requires an offender to spend a set number of hours working in the community either for a private nonprofit organization or for a government funded agency (Bartollas, 2002).  Bartollas (2002) states that house arrest is a sentence that requires an offender to remain in the confinement of his/her own home for the entire or remainder of the sentence.  Electronic monitoring is court ordered monitoring using electronic equipment that shows that an offender is where he or she is suppose to be, like their home or a community correctional center (Bartollas, 2002).  Boot camp is a more extreme form of probation.  It is a facility that operates in a military style and is used as an alternative to prison.  It is mainly used to cut down on prison overcrowding while meeting the demands of severe punishment by the community (Bartollas, 2002). 
            Community based corrections have the goal of punishing offenders and protecting the public.  Community based corrections aims to address the needs of victims as well as do what it can to reduce recidivism rates (Bartollas, 2002).  This is done through rehabilitation, reintegration into the community, and restoring justice (Alarid & del Carmen, 2010).  Offenders are rehabilitated through drug programs, skill training programs, or life management programs.  They are then placed back into the community.  Some offenders are put straight back into general population while some offenders first live in group residences, such as halfway houses and privately owned houses set up for offender reintegration.  Through this process the goal is to restore justice.  Restorative justice is victim oriented and strives for offenders to take responsibility for their actions and to repair the injustices that they have caused (Alarid & del Carmen, 2010).
            The composer of this paper feels that community based corrections is a wonderful thing.  She feels that the initial idea of community based corrections shared the goals of the current community based corrections.  With the modifications over time and the aid of states that have passed the Community Correction Acts, community based corrections has become increasingly successful.  She believes that over time and with the right training, many would-be career criminals may have the opportunity to avoid the inside of a prison cell and to be introduced to influences that can change their lives around.  She would love to see community based corrections continue to evolve into a form of corrections that has a very low recidivism rate.
            An explanation of community based sanctions and an understanding of the goals of community based corrections can put many ‘slap-on-the-wrist’ sentences into a new light. This reveals them as a creative means to make the community a safer place while reserving the prisons for the most violent criminals.  Over time, community based corrections have started to play a role in the decision-making processes of bail, sentencing, and reintegration into the community (Alarid & del Carmen, 2010).  What parts of the judicial process will community based corrections touch in the years to come?

Alarid, L.F. & del Carmen, R.V. (2010). Community-Based Corrections, 8th Ed.  Wadsworth,                  Cengage Learning retrieved 9/5/2010 from             www.peru.edu/professionalstudies/.../powerpointCJUS308Chapter1.ppt
Bartollas, C. (2002). Invitation to Corrections. A Pearson Education Company. Boston, MA.        Retrieved 9/4/2010 from Ch. 5, Ch. 6, and Glossary

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