Out of the nearly 7 million people currently on correctional supervision in the United States, only 30% of them are incarcerated in jail or prison. The remaining 70% of persons who have had contact with the criminal justice system are supervised within the community (Alarid, Cromwell, & del Carmen, 2008). This research paper discusses community corrections, which is defined as a court-ordered sanction in which offenders serve at least some of their sentence in the community.
Three assumptions rest behind the idea of community corrections. First, most people who break the law are not dangerous or violent. The vast majority of offenders have violated a law that requires that they be held responsible through some sort of injunction or punishment, but most do not need to be locked away from the community. Keeping the offender in the community can be effective if the offender is able to maintain employment obligations and family relationships and to attempt to repair harm he or she caused the community or an identified victim—all of this at a reduced cost to taxpayers.
Second, a community sentence seeks to treat behaviors that are directly related to why the offender got into trouble in the first place, so that the risk of future reoffending is significantly reduced. The assumption here is that treatment programs are more numerous and accessible in the community than in jail and prison. This makes it easier for offenders to get the help they need while in the community and subsidize the cost with their own funds. A final assumption is that people who have been incarcerated in jail and prison transition better when they are released with some supervision than without any supervision (Petersilia, 2001).
Understanding the concept of community corrections will be accomplished through a discussion of five main areas:
- Goals of a community sentence
- Types of community corrections programs
- Advantages and disadvantages of community corrections programs
- Cost of community corrections programs
- Do community corrections programs work?