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Community Corrections: Is It Really A Sensible Alternative To Prison?

1542 words - 6 pages

It is only in the last 30 years that community corrections have become a substantial part of the correctional system. Beginning in the 1950s, national attention was focused on the development of alternative, community-based correctional services. In the early stages of the community corrections movement, local institutions, residential centers, group homes and specialized probation services were promoted as alternatives to incarceration. In recent years, the push for alternatives to incarceration has, in large part, been in response to rapidly increasing prison populations.Community corrections can be defined as a set of interrelated programs designed to prevent future criminal activity, by providing opportunities that allow ex-offenders to re-integrate themselves back into society, without compromising public order or safety. Facilities such as Halfway houses, Day Reporting Centers and Halfback houses focus on various forms of counseling to address the needs of ex-offenders. Daily programming include, but are not limited to, educational /vocational training, drug/ alcohol treatment, anger management and conflict resolution. In addition, community corrections also serve as a remedy to prison overcrowding. For instance, after completing a portion of their prison sentence, parolees are often mandated by the State Parole Board to attend these programs as alternatives to incarceration.The concept of community corrections is one of rational thinking. In a broad sense, first, the major factors often associated with criminal behavior are identified.(i.e. education, drug addiction, employment). Second, community based programs are then structured with key components that target such factors. Third, offenders on either probation/parole are placed in these facilities, some with specific instructions from the court/parole board, which indicate the type and amount of treatment they should receive. Ultimately, the desired outcome of community corrections is to ensure, that upon completing the program, ex-offenders will be less likely to continue any criminal behavior, thus aiding in crime reduction.There are several issues related to community corrections, including cost-savings, effectiveness, and public safety with re-entry. The cost of community corrections is an issue continually debated. Most community correctional programs emphasize that the use of community alternatives is not as costly as traditional incarceration. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, on average, it costs about $20,000 to incarcerate a person for a year in a state penitentiary. The average annual cost of supervising an offender in the community ranges from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the level of supervision. Judges find it hard to ignore such savings when offenders don't pose a serious threat to public safety.Advocates of community corrections argue that community programs are more effective than incarceration. Effectiveness can be measured in terms of reducing...

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