By University of Phoenix
Community-based corrections programs are alternatives to traditional incarceration that propose a way to rehabilitate inmates and provide them with a more well-rounded life. These programs are more often used when the inmate isn’t violent or if the offender has served their time and is on parole.
Proponents of community corrections believe these programs to be more effective than prison time in many cases, as a community-based approach humanizes inmates and gives them responsibilities to care for others in the area where they live and work.
As the prison population has grown in the U.S., many states have begun implementing corrections programs with the goal of reducing recidivism rates and keeping people from returning to prison. These programs offer participants opportunities for reintegration into society and access to education, employment, healthcare services and mental health care.
Community-based corrections programs are designed to address the needs of incarcerated people and the communities where they live. The programs may strive for objectives such as:
Community-based corrections programs provide opportunities for individuals to reenter society as rehabilitated citizens after they serve their sentence. These programs are designed not only for offenders but also for their families and communities.
Corrections programs offer various services, including substance abuse treatment, mental health diagnosis and counseling, employment assistance, housing opportunities and social support networks. The programs combine individualized attention with community participation.
There are multiple types of community-based corrections programs, including:
Several factors can affect the success of community-based corrections programs, including:
The long-term success of community corrections depends on several factors, including whether participants’ needs are appropriately addressed by correctional support services. Without such programs to help offenders reenter society, recidivism rates may rise, resulting in increased costs for the justice system and taxpayers.
There is a confirmed decrease in recidivism rates in prisons that offer educational opportunities to inmates. A study by the RAND Corporation compared more than 400,000 released prisoners in 30 states and determined that the rate of recidivism decreased by 43% for the prisoners who had taken advantage of prison educational programs.
Community-based corrections programs originated in the mid-1970s when a growing number of correctional professionals, policymakers and legislators began questioning the efficacy of prisons. They noted that prisons isolated offenders from their communities and rehabilitative programs.
Prisoners were also less likely to have stable work histories or support networks before entering prison. Many returned to society with criminal records that limited their job prospects after they were released.
Today, most programs focus on offenders’ needs rather than punishment. The criminal justice system is designed for keeping society safe, but not necessarily for helping people transition successfully from incarceration back into society. In the last 20 years, a more science-based approach to assessing the needs of offenders has been implemented.
Many community-based corrections programs now include:
The future of community-based corrections programs is uncertain. They have been successful in many ways, but major obstacles and challenges remain.
Legislation has been proposed in some states to alleviate the negative effects of incarceration on long-term inmates. For example, Assembly Bill A2323 in the New York State Senate proposes an increase in funding to support postsecondary correctional education. The bill was created based on studies that showed a direct correlation between the education level of inmates and their ability to attain stable employment.
Many people know about the benefits of being a community corrections officer, but few people know about the many other rewarding career opportunities in community-based corrections and correctional support services.
From justice and security administrators to healthcare providers to educators, several roles are crucial in a community-based correctional facility.
Community corrections is not just for those who want to fight crime — it’s also for those who feel called to help others experiencing chronic issues related to mental health or substance use. These professionals often have an educational background in criminal justice, counseling or behavioral science, and may hold a certification in their field.
Many positions within community corrections require some work experience in the field, whether it be in a similar position or with a related organization, such as the juvenile justice system or substance abuse treatment facilities.
Community corrections provide an alternative path to incarceration that may help criminal offenders build skills necessary to reenter the community successfully and live productively.
If you have an interest or passion in learning more about the criminal justice system, University of Phoenix offers six degree programs to consider.
Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice — This two-year program, in which courses are just five weeks, teaches enforcement, sociology and communication skills. No SAT requirements to apply.
Bachelor of Science in Correctional Program Support Service — This program equips students with skills to manage cases, facilitate programs and address the needs of people impacted by the criminal justice system.
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration — This program teaches skills to prepare for administrative responsibilities in law enforcement, criminal courts and corrections. There is a strong emphasis in communication, problem-solving, research and operations.
Bachelor of Science in Public Administration — This program prepares for roles in both the public and private sectors and covers everything from civil leadership, business and governmental law to finance and budgeting.
Master of Public Administration — This program focuses on teaching leadership, communication and problem-solving skills. It also emphasizes learning public policy and developing financial management skills.
Master of Science in Administration of Justice and Security — This program combines administrative training, policy development and problem-solving skills to prepare you for roles in law enforcement, corporate security and infrastructure security.
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