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Delivery of Community Corrections


Community corrections refer to sanctions enforced on adult convicts or juveniles who have been adjudicated. The sanctions occur within the residential or the community setting and not in the jail. Enforcement of these sanctions is done by the courts pr specific agencies that bear legal authority over adult or juvenile convicts (Vera Institute of Justice, 2013). Community correction occurs in two ways: probation and parole. Probation is correctional supervision which takes place in the community instead of the jails. Parole is supervision after release from jail which is conditional (Government of Western Australia, 2012).

The categories of people who are subject to community correction include:

  • Defendants who are awaiting trial, whose cases are open and active in the courts

  • Defendants whose cases are open but the cases have been directed to a specialty court or diversion program, but they will be convicted and sentenced if they do not succeed in those courts or the programs (Webber,1987).

  • Offenders who have pleaded or have been found guilty and granted community supervision, or probation, that may require them to participate in special programs such as drug courts (Cullen & Brandon, 1997).

  • Offenders who have fully served their jail terms but are still placed on community supervision for a certain period

  • Offenders who are released from prison before their jail term is complete but are required to serve the remaining term of their sentence as they work in the community or engage in other programs (Daniel & Ross,1994).

This essay seeks to address the issue that “the delivery of Community Corrections takes place in a highly charged political environment, often played out in the media”. The essay explores the prevailing political conditions surrounding delivery of community correction and how they affect the effectiveness of community correction services.

Issues surrounding Delivery of Community Corrections

The main task in community correction is informed by the intended outcome of the intervention. From a utilitarian dimension, any punishment must not worsen the situation but rather it should improve the situation (Cullen & Gilbert, 1982). According to Steven (1997), punishment must be conscious of the future and should therefore aim at preventing re-offending behaviour from the offender. To achieve this, community correction should be based on the following philosophies:

Community incapacitation: this involves monitoring and supervising the offenders intensively in the community settings. This is essential in fulfilling the goal of community correction of maintain the offenders under very close surveillance thereby preventing them from re-offending. Community incapacitation emphasise on controlling and managing the offenders (Burell, 2012).

Rehabilitation: this involves attempting to change the behaviour of the offender by engaging them in skill-based programs which are therapeutic. This helps to prevent relapse of the offending behaviours, also known as recidivism, by modifying the offender’s behaviour (Oregon Department of Corrections, 2002). This emphasizes on personally developing the offenders and enhancing their capabilities (Gendreau & Ross, 1987).

Restorative justice: this involves engaging the offenders in activities that will restore the harm that was committed to the victims and to the larger community. This aims at bringing back unity between the offender and the community (Siegel & Worral, 2015). The offender is required to do something for themselves and by themselves that will improve the situation in the community. This emphasizes on improving the wellbeing of the victims, the community as well as the offender (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000).

Political attitude towards community correction

The success of community correction programs in achieving its intended objective has faced attacks from different directions of the political system. For example in the United States, part of the attackers were the advocates of getting tough on crime wanted offenders to spend more time in prison and therefore considered imprisonment as an effective way of achieving this toughness. Others believed that there should be a fixed measure of punishment which the judge should apply uniformly across all convicts of a similar crime. The two political sides opposing community correction programs considered the indeterminate sentencing as too flexible and unpredictable thus problematic. They therefore worked towards eliminating community correction programs (Freeman, 1999). The pressure to eliminate the community correction programs was heightened by the emergence of ‘nothing works’ ideology on community correction treatment. This pushed the United States into rapidly transforming their sentencing structure from indeterminate to determinate system where the judge gives the specifics of the sentence (Glaze & Bonczar, 2009). The nothing works’ ideology became so dominant such that any effort towards community correction was aborted.

In Australia, community correction system also fell out of favour of the political system where the opponents argued that the objective of sentencing should be based on retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation (Martinson, 1974). Basing the argument on retribution, the attackers argue that the type of punishment as well as its value should be in accordance with the crime that was committed. This implies that the punishment is on the crime and not on the individual (Beck, 2004). Deterrence aims at discouraging the offender from committing a crime in the future. Incapacitation aims at protecting and safeguarding the community from likelihood of commission of a crime while rehabilitation aims at changing an offender and encouraging him/her to lead a law- abiding life (Franklin & Hawkins, 1995).

Politicians propelled the ideology that ‘nothing works’ in Australia and ended up replacing the hope that was placed on community rehabilitation programs. This created anxiety which politicians took advantage of and used to gain way into the ballot box (Stohr &Walsh, 2012). During 1980s and 1990s, the philosophy of ‘nothing works’ gained too much popularity across Australian states. The collapse of community correction programs raised dilemma on determining when to imprison an offender for the benefit of the society and when is it appropriate to issues community-based sentence (Alarid, Cromwell & del Carmen, 2008).

The media and community correction programs

The media has great potential in influencing success or failure of the community correction programs in dealing with offenders. The media is well placed to facilitate the process of partnership between community supervision agencies and the community while exercising supervision over the offenders (Palmer, 2006). The media can also make the supervision agency more visible making the community members better aware of the programs that are being implemented by theses agencies in the community. Further, the media can assist the agency in finding people willing to volunteer to help those running the programs and this would establish a very effective sense of community justice (Hanser, 2009).

However, Garrett & Carlson (1999) argues that careful consideration must be made when deciding on the role of the media community corrections. He argues that the following concerns must be addressed before the role of the media is determined:

  • The extent to which interference by the media will disrupt the daily activities of the supervision officers in the community

  • The likely reaction of the offenders to media coverage, and how this reaction would affect their reintegration with the community

  • The reaction that people would have to media coverage and how this is likely to affect the offenders reintegration

  • The extent to which media coverage can negative affect the safety of the victims

  • The likelihood of the coverage to cause trauma to the victims and their families, or families of the offender

Public attitude towards community correction

Community-based corrective strategies has never received wide acceptance among the members of public. Members of public have never fully accepted community correction programs because they believe that the criminals should be dealt with in the prison (Walker, Collins & Wilson, 1987). Most of the members of community are against the location of centres for those who have violated the law to be located in their midst. They fear that these offenders will spread crime to the neighbourhood and the value of property located in the areas adjacent to those centres will decrease. This is referred to as Not In My Back Yard Syndrome (NIMBY) (Benzvy-Miller, 1990).

Some of the factors that have contributed to conservative mood the members of public have towards community correction programs include:

Lack of knowledge of the criminal justice system: majority of the members of the public do not properly understand the concept sentencing. They think that sentencing only means imprisonment. A study by Hartney & Marchionna (2009) in the United States, involved asking members of public to choose sentencing options for hypothetical offenders. Majority of them chose imprisonment but after they were give information regarding alternative sentencing, only a small percentage of them chose imprisonment. This suggests that members of public equate sentencing to imprisonment because they do not have the right information regarding community alternatives to imprisonment (Hough, Roberts, Jacobson, Moon & Steel, 2009).

Public misconceptions: The members of public have misconceptions regarding the number of people being put under public correction programs. They believe that the numbers of offenders under parole are too many and that the program is too lenient (Gelb, 2006). The public believe that community correction programs are a manifestation of the criminal justice system being soft on the offenders. There is therefore a need to convince the public that community correction programs offer both rehabilitation and punishment, and therefore giving a chance to the offenders that they may return to the community and become productive members (Justice 1 Committee Scotland, 2002).

However, the media and the political arena have played a very big role in perpetrating these misconceptions especially on offenders under parole programs. In New South Wales, politicians and the media have raised the debate on the notion of ‘nothing works’ believing that they doing so on behalf of the members of public but research shows different attitude among members of public regarding community correction. In some incidences, the media deceives the victims to express their views regarding punishment for the offender when they are under emotional distress. The media leads the victim into believing that the offender can only be successfully punished through imprisonment (Stoneman, 1978).

The misconceptions and the fear among members of the public dates back in the 1980s and 1990s in countries such as Vietnam from concerns raised by both conservatives and liberals on whether the criminal justice system would be trusted to exercise their discretion on rehabilitation of offenders in a prudent way. The conservatives argued that the judges and rehabilitative agencies were too lenient and would release hardcore criminals to the community. The liberals also argued that the judges would be discriminatory especially on the poor and the minority offenders. Both sides of political arena therefore proposed the adoption of determinate sentencing and abolishment of community rehabilitative programs (Roberts, 1992).

On the other hand, the media covers sensational evens and specific incidences highlighting errors that have been made by the criminal justice system. This leads the members of public to overestimate the tendency of relapse for those under parole (Robinson, 2005).

According to Austin & Krisberg, (1982), for community correction programs to be successfully implemented, its supporters must be able to convince the political arena that the programs do not significantly increase the risk posed to public safety. The ability of the criminal justice system to restore trust among the public on appropriateness of community correction programs lies at the mercy of the political arena and the media(Gunnison & Helfgott, 2011). Recent studies by Gelb (2008) both in Australia and other countries have shown that people are willing to accept use of alternatives to imprisonment particularly for offenders from the vulnerable groups. However, the media still portrays an unchanged attitude among the public regarding use of alternatives to imprisonment.


The analysis of the situation explains the truth that “the delivery of Community Corrections takes place in a highly charged political environment, often played out in the media”. Initially, there was clear evidence that community corrective programs would have been successful in rehabilitating the offenders and helping them to reintegrate with the community. The programs would have also been successful in enabling the offenders to lead a productive life after the sentence (Maruna, 2001). However, the appreciation awarded to these programs was short lived and this can be attributed to interference by the media and various sides of the political spectrum. This left the members of public misinformed about community correction programs and they therefore developed misconceptions about their objectives. This has been experienced in various countries among them Canada, Vietnam, Australia and the United States of America. To restore public acceptance of community correction programs and their belief in their effectiveness, the criminal justice system must be able to change the political opinions and use the media to perpetuate the same to the public.


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