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Evolution of Community Correctional Programs Essay

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Updated: May 11th, 2022

Introduction

Community-based correctional institutions have gone through tremendous changes in the past twenty years. The rapid growth of incarcerated individuals, issues related to health and safety, and the increasing cost of maintaining prison facilities have facilitated several changes regarding the operation of correctional facilities in the United States and other parts of the world. Even though the public does not have faith in the way community-based correctional facilities are managed, such facilities continue to flourish mainly because there are no better alternatives. The fact remains that the services of many correctional departments, as well as the processes involved, are different from those applied in the past. Currently, several factors are considered before designing community-based correctional programs, including technology, which has brought about some reforms. The future is even expected to be better given the fact that technology is transforming society in the way that few people expected. This article looks at the past practices regarding community-based correctional programs, the current trends, and the future opportunities (Muraskin, & Roberts, 2009). Some of the current trends include the introduction of services that are constitutionally anchored and the application of cost-effective strategies. Unlike in the past when prisoners did not have rights, the current law provides that prisoners should be given some freedom since they are also human beings who are always in need of basic needs. These fundamental rights cannot be denied because they are contained in the constitution.

As earlier stated, the idea of community-based correctional programs was introduced due to the increased number of offenders and the strained resources. Various governments came up with some programs that would allow offenders to avoid the criminal justice system by not being taken to court, charged, and sent to prisons to serve their terms. Most community-based correctional programs employ probation meaning that the accused is allowed to undergo some form of reform with close supervision from an expert. Some programs suggest that offenders should be subjected to communal services as one way of punishing them. Critics point out that instituting community-based correctional programs is condoning crime because such programs do not ensure justice to the offended. Community-based correctional programs do not utilize incarceration as a way of ensuring justice to the offended and the offender. In the past, several strategies were employed regarding community-based correctional programs. Some of these correctional options included sanctuary, benefit of the clergy, judicial reprieve, and recognizance. These options were mostly utilized in Europe before the development of modern alternatives (Walker, & Katz, 2008).

Sanctuary was the first community-based correctional program to be utilized in Britain and some parts of Europe. It was mostly applied in two forms, depending on the seriousness of the crime. One of the varieties of the sanctuary was applied to all members of the public while the other was reserved to the church members only. The offender was allowed to migrate to a specified city to avoid being taken through the criminal justice system. These cities were predetermined and were set aside specifically to offer sanctuary to the offender. This was viewed as one way of punishing criminals since they were not allowed to mingle with the rest of the family. While in these cities, offenders were expected to maintain peace and try to come up with ways through which they could transform their behaviors. Others viewed this program as one of the techniques of implementing self-imposed banishment. The other form of the sanctuary was based on Christian beliefs whereby the church could liaise with the offended to extend mercy to the offender. The offender was expected to hide in a specified place in the church where soldiers were prohibited from entering without the permission of the church leader. The offender came out of the sanctuary after extensive consultations with the church officials and the offended. The offender was granted abjuration upon the confession that he or she committed the crime. The church helped the offender to leave England and the accused was ordered never to come back until he would be granted permission by his majesty.

Concerning the benefit of the clergy, the church leaders were not subjected to any form of punishment because they served God. However, the church was expected to punish its officials who went against the law. The local authorities could present monks, nuns, and other clerics to church authorities for disciplinary actions. The reasoning behind this was that subjecting the church leaders to secular criminal justice processes would distract the faith of the church goes. Church courts were initially very effective because they dealt with complaints in an open way. The courts could even offer extreme punishments including a life sentence. The church courts interpreted crime in terms of sin meaning that anyone who went against the law was against the provisions of the bible. After some time, the utilization of judicial reprieve was adopted. This implied that the jury had the power to determine whether an offense was worth incarceration. Some offenses were considered minor while others were serious, depending on the court’s interpretation. The option was mostly utilized on offenders who did not have criminal records. Recognizance was first utilized in the United States in 1830 in the case involving commonwealth and Chase (Commonwealth v. Chase). The jury failed to incarcerate Chase for larceny because of public demand. The accused was released on grounds that her crime was necessary, but she was not expected to repeat it. In case the crime was repeated, the initial crime would also be included in the second charge (Waller, 2009).

Currently, community-based correctional programs are based on certain philosophies meaning that a crime is evaluated carefully before passing judgment, whether correctional or not. These philosophies include retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. These philosophies aim at achieving justice for both the offender and the offended. Rehabilitation and deterrence are meant to cater to the interests of the offender while incapacitation and retribution ensure justice to the offended. The philosophies try to understand the major causes of crime in society. In this regard, they aim at reintegrating the offender back into society. Retribution is a form of punishment that is based on the traditional Greek policy that says ‘an eye for an eye.’ This means that offenders should be made to suffer in the same way as the offended. The crime is assessed circumspectly and the punishment suggested is commensurate to the crime committed. Based on this, petty crimes receive lesser punishments while greater crimes are punished severely. Retribution ensures that both the offender and the offended receive justice (Waller, 2009). The correctional program should not offer lesser punishment to an individual who might have committed a serious crime because it would encourage others to commit the same crime. For instance, rape is a crime that is punished variously, depending on certain circumstances. Some rape cases are punished severely while others are even excluded from punishment. Some factors are considered, including the age of the offended, the place that the crime took place, and even the relationship between the offender and the offended (Tonry, 1996). Deterrence is meant to warn the public that certain crimes attract huge fines and extreme punishments. Members of the public are expected to learn from the punishments and try as much as possible to keep away from the said crimes. Incapacitation is not very different from the traditional sanctuary technique because it aims at separating the offender from the rest of the family. Rehabilitation is mainly applied to ensure that the offender gets back to society after undergoing a rigorous criminal justice system.

The current trends prove that community-based correctional programs are getting better with the legislation of laws. Upon realization that criminals are likely to repeat the mistakes that took them to jail, various governments have come up with programs aimed at offering individuals specialized services that would help them reintegrate back into society. Once an individual is released from prison, he or she will just go back to the community. Therefore, various programs are being developed to ensure that ex-convicts are welcome back to society. In this regard, various programs are being suggested including training of offenders while in prisons, providing professional counseling, and developing re-socialization programs (Robinson, 2009). All these are suggestions that are meant to strengthen the community-based correctional programs in the future. It can be concluded that there are various opportunities for community-based correctional programs in the future.

References

Muraskin, R., & Roberts, A.R. (2009). Visions for Change: Crime and justice in the twenty-first century (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Robinson, M. B. (2009). Justice blind? Ideals and realities of American criminal justice (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Tonry, M. (1996). Sentencing matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Walker, S., & Katz, C.M. (2008). The police in America: An introduction (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Waller, B. N. (2009). You decide! Current debates in criminal justice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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