Community-Based Correctional Practitioners
Community-based correctional practitioners play an immense role in the criminal justice system (Alarid, 2016). However, they currently face many problems caused by increasing workload and inadequate services required to ensure efficiency. The following paper identifies some of the issues and provides policy recommendations to deal with the problems. The major issues faced by the officers include large caseloads, underfunding, lack of capacity and rigid correctional system, and the use of outdated technology.
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Community-based correctional practitioners have to deal with large caseloads, which include standardized sets of conditions for supervision. Also, there are many community service obligations for the offender, such as paying fine, restitution, and mandated treatment (VERA Institute of Justice, 2013). Monitoring and supervising the processes overwhelm the correctional officers. These challenges are rife across the U.S., and there is a need for comprehensive policies that will mitigate the issues. Caseloads have been increasing, yet the number of correctional practitioners is still low. For example, in the 1970s, a parole officer workload was 45 parolees. By 2003, a parole officer was responsible for 70 parolees while a probation officer was supervising 130 probationers. Therefore, the increase in the caseloads has also seen a rise in requirements placed on the community-based correctional practitioners.
- Employment policy: The policy should be based on a workable ratio of the number of offenders to the correctional officers. The ratio should be drawn based on research in order to ensure that officers are not overburdened. This will guarantee that as the population of the parolees increase, the governments also hire more community-based correctional officers.
- Mandatory specialized risk assessment before referring offenders to community centers: One of the major issues which contribute to the increased caseloads is the rising recidivism. Instead of majorly concentrating on the supervisory role, the practitioners have to deal with the recidivism cases where they have to engage police, courts, and legal officers. The policy will address criminogenic needs and ensure that offenders placed on community correctional centers do not have a high risk of committing other crimes (VERA Institute of Justice, 2013). The policy should be based on a comprehensive risk assessment tool that measures both the statistic and dynamic risk factors.
- Resource allocation based on cases: In most instances, resources are distributed to the correctional practitioners based on the number of offenders they are supervising. The result is that a lot of resources are wasted on low-risk offenders who do not require excessive supervision. On the other hand, practitioners dealing with moderate and high-risk offenders lack the resources to implement excessive supervision. Therefore, proper analysis of cases will ensure that both human and financial resources are provided based on the need.
It is estimated that the government spends $52 billion annually on criminal justice correctional practices. Much of the spending goes to the people incarcerated, very little is devoted to the community correctional centers. This has been one of the issues that face the community-based practitioner. Lack of sufficient funds implies that key services are not received, and there is a high likelihood of failure of the correctional process (Mitchell & Leachman, 2014). The community-based correctional officers have to work on constrained budgets, and hence some important services are likely to be overlooked, which compromises the progress of the program.
- Allocations based on the number of offenders: The state and federal governments need to adopt a policy in which allocations are considerate of the number of people in the correctional centers. This will ensure even distribution of resources both in prison and community correctional centers.
- Bi-annually needs assessment: Budgetary allocations are normally done on an annual basis. The criteria used are the projections of the number of offenders incarcerated and those in community correctional centers. However, there are many movements within the criminal justice system, especially from prison to the community correction system, which leads to overstretching services. Bi-annual assessment will lead to supplementary budgetary allocations to avoid a scenario where service provision is compromised.
- A collaborative model in which private and not-for-profit organizations actively participate in the program. This policy will ensure shared responsibilities because the organizations will help in providing employment to low-risk offenders. This will reduce the burden of increased monitoring by the community correctional officers and reduce the cost of logistics as the partners will be capturing the data on the progress of the offenders (Mitchell & Leachman, 2014). Some states like Colorado, have a similar model.
Lack of Capacity and the Inflexible Correctional System
The correctional system has strict rules that to some extent complicate the service provision. For example, community-based correctional practitioners do not have the discretion to review the service terms for the offenders who have shown positive behavior change. Also, there are new skills required, and some officers are not specifically trained to deal with some of the challenges.
- Retraining of the staff: The society is ever changing and the problems that were faced in community-based correctional system 20 years ago are different from the current scenario. Therefore, the practitioners need to be equipped with new skills such as communication, motivation and needs assessment in order to respond to issues affecting the offenders and reduce stress levels associated with inadequate skills.
- Earned discharge: Fixed service terms for offenders have been contributing to the large caseloads. There is the need for a review of the way the offenders exit the programs. This policy will be based on a comprehensive assessment in which parolees who score positively are discharged without petitioning the judges.
- Family support programs- This policy will engage family in the support process of the correction. Studies show that family support is a very influential factor in the success of the corrective process. For example, the involvement of the family is likely to lead to high acceptance of the mandatory treatments, compliance to restitution, and fine payments.
Use of Outdated Technology
With the increase in the number of parolees, the community practitioners are overwhelmed and overstretched beyond capacity. The practitioners rely on old methods to monitor and supervise the offenders. The reporting system is also based on many clerical processes that are tedious and ineffective. VERA Institute of Justice (2013) noted that the officers do not have clerical support and technology required, yet they are needed to enforce stricter requirements.
- Implementing kiosk reporting system: This will entail the deployment of automated machines in various centers where the low-risk offenders can report and key-in their data without the physical presence of the correctional practitioner. The devices should use unique biometric identifiers such as the eye iris and figure prints. This will enhance efficiency.
- Electronic monitoring: Practitioners are faced with a lot of challenges in monitoring the movement of the offenders. Therefore, the electronic monitoring fitted with GPS will help them track the movements of the offenders.
- Community-based reporting system: This policy is aimed at ensuring that the monitoring and supervision are not left to the officers only. The society should be involved in the corrective process by putting systems in place for community members to electronically report negative or positive changes relating to the offenders on-time. This is because the officers may not have the adequate capacity to determine the progress of the offenders objectively.
Alarid, L.F. (2016). Community-based corrections. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
Mitchell, M., & Leachman, M. (2014). Changing priorities: State criminal justice reforms and Investments in education. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
VERA Institute of Justice. (2013). The potential of community corrections to improve safety and reduce incarceration. Web.