Community Corrections

Community Corrections


Contents
1. Introduction
2. Researches on the effectiveness of community corrections
3. Public perception of community corrections
4. Conclusion
5. Bibliography

Introduction
In recent years the discussions concerning the problem of community corrections are growing to be tenser. The contradictions between numerous researches dedicated to the effectiveness of community correction programs and the opposition of the public are often very significant to the extent that public perception of community correction is rather negative than positive, while, in stark contrast, researches reveal quite optimistic results and indicate in the direction of the wider implementation of community correction programs.
As a result, the views on the effectiveness of community corrections differ dramatically. On the one hand, there are researches that estimate that community corrections can reduce the cost spent on corrections of people in traditional prisons, community corrections can also reduce the prison population and widen the net of public control. All this contributes to high effectiveness of community corrections.
Nonetheless, on the other hand, the public opinion is quite skeptical about effectiveness of community corrections as they simply lack information about community corrections at large and their effectiveness, there is also the fear of risk to public safety resulting in a so-called NIMBY syndrome, and, finally, it is necessary to say that public opinion is substantially influenced by media which depict communicative corrections in rather dark colors.
In such a way, there exist quite different views on community corrections that need to be analyzed and discussed.
Researches on the effectiveness of community corrections
At the beginning it is necessary to point out that community corrections have provoked numerous discussions within last several decades as for its effectiveness and nowadays community corrections are viewed by many researchers (Beyer, 1990) as an effective alternative to traditional incarceration. To a significant extent, such a positive attitude of the researchers to community corrections is predetermined by economic effectiveness and more humanistic approach to criminals.
First of all, it is necessary to underline that many specialists believe that community corrections will need less funding form the part of the state and it will be less expansive for public than traditional incarceration. For instance, in 1996, the figures concerning communication corrections were quite optimistic, notably, the federal government had to spend $45,753 to house a federal inmate and on the provincial level it was necessary to spend $39,000 on an inmate per year, while it cost only about $8,527 to supervise in the community on parole or statutory release for a year (Canadian Center for Justice and Statistics, 1996).
In such a way, savings seem to be quite substantial and the advantages of community corrections are economically justified, though some specialists are warning against the possible threat of misuse of cost comparisons on lobbying for community corrections alternatives. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that Landreville agrees that it is possible to speak about real savings of public funds by means of using community corrections only when “they are presented as alternatives to imprisonment and are suggested as a means of reducing overpopulation” but he remarks that it is really possible to achieve positive results only “on the condition that it is presented prudently and it is well documented”.
According to the same research, it is worthy of mention that approximately 90% of the cost that are spent on traditional increment basically remain stable and are not susceptible to serious variations or changes. This is why it will be possible to reduce costs only when the existing system is changed radically, notably, if the existing penitentiary institutions are eliminated and, instead community corrections programs are introduced saving public funds (Landerville, 1995).
In such a situation, specialists naturally support community corrections as alternatives to traditional incarceration as more effective from economic point of view, but, at the same time, it is also obvious that really positive economic effects of community corrections may be observed only on the condition that the cost will be used more effectively and communication corrections will really replace traditional prisons leading to the institutional closures.
Another argument of researchers in favor of the high effectiveness of community corrections is the possibility to reduce the prison population that is also quite costly. It should be said that specialists (Doob, 1990) state that there are three basic assumptions underlying the introduction of community corrections as alternatives to imprisonment.
First of all, it should be said that, at the present moment, judges are reluctantly imprisoning offenders because there is practically no equally effective alternatives by which incarceration could be substituted and, moreover, in the result of the failure of community corrections offenders are sent to prison.
Secondly, it is necessary that judges that set sanctions should really believe that these sanctions will be thoroughly controlled and the punishment will fully correspond to the guilt of an offender and his or her crime. At the same time, communicative corrections should also imply the possibility for rehabilitation of those offenders who really want to change themselves.
Furthermore, it should be said that, on introducing community corrections, judges could change their attitude to the traditional sentences leading to incarceration of offenders. Instead, they would rather prefer to use community corrections programs for different offenders according to their crimes and social danger they represent to the community.
At the same time, it is necessary to underline that there is a risk that community corrections will be used by judges not as alternatives but only as sanctions against offenders. Consequently, it is important that community corrections became alternatives to traditional incarceration but not an additional punishment for them. Otherwise, it would be hardly possible to speak about a real reduction of the prison population as community corrections rather become a kind of additional sanctions to the imprisonment than its real alternatives. As a result, the number of offenders in prison would hardly decrease. On the other hand, it is necessary to remind that specialists (Reeves, 1992) believe that the wide use of community corrections as alternatives can really reduce the prison population that, in its turn can lead to savings and, thus, economically it can be more effective than imprisonment.
Another argument in favor of the higher effectiveness of community corrections compared to traditional incarceration is the possibility of widening the net of social control (Blomberg, 1984). Practically, it means that, instead of the existing correction system of penitentiary establishments, the network of public corrections programs will disperse offenders throughout different communities with lower concentration of offenders at one place by increasing the number of such places.
In fact, community corrections programs, as a rule, imply longer term of correction and thus, need community supervision for a longer time that, unquestionably, will need more funding and, thus, it will be more expansive. Moreover, some specialists argue that “certain forms of use of ‘alternatives’ can inevitably lead to an increase in the total number of people under ‘social control’ at any given point” (Doob, 1995).
As a result, it is possible to estimate that positive economic effect can be minimized because of the need to spend more money on funding the longer term of public supervision and control over offenders but, on the other hand, its practical effectiveness, i.e. the positive impact of the punishment on offenders leading to the change of his or her lifestyle and behavior, may be much higher than in the result of the traditional imprisonment.
Anyway, the savings from the wide implementation of community corrections may be still quite significant regardless the longer terms and net widening (Marvell, 1995) since they can outweigh the costs of the funding of the existing corrections system.
Anyway, one of the most important factors with the help of which it is possible to assess the effectiveness of community corrections is the consequences of community corrections compared to traditional incarceration. In other words, it is possible to say that the effectiveness of community corrections can be measured in terms of reducing recidivism, avoiding exposure to undesirable effects and promoting the successful re-integration of offenders in the community.
In this respect, it should be said that studies have shown incarceration is not more effective than community corrections in preventing re-offending (Vyas, 1995). Moreover, community corrections have been shown more effective when delivered in a community setting (Gendreau and Andrews, 1990). At the same time, it is worthy of mention that community correction programs spare offenders many of the negative effects of traditional incarceration.
Community corrections programs also facilitate many of the factors associated with the offender’s successful re-integration into the community. Obviously, offenders can benefit from community corrections programs because the life within the community will inevitably be more effective than traditional incarceration and contribute substantially to offenders’ re-integration into the society and, what is more, they will be also able to pursue employment or educational opportunities (Benzvy-Miller, 1990).
At the same time, it is also necessary to remember about re-establishment of family relationships of offenders. Researches reveal the fact that family ties are better maintained when offender is residing at a community-based facility rather than a prison (Benzvy-Miller, 1990).
Furthermore, the proven ineffectiveness of incarceration at reducing recidivism and the perceived effectiveness of community corrections has lead the province of New Brunswick to commit to close provincial institutions and re-directing correction dollars to community-based programs. The province has planned closing 5 of its 12 correctional facilities. The province expects to reduce institutional bed by 25% (Benzvy-Miller, 1990). In such a way, the actual closure of correctional facilities may increase the likelihood that cost savings will be achieved and net widening will not be a problem.
Public perception of community corrections
Obviously the numerous researches reveal quite optimistic consequences of community corrections and specialists basically support the further development of community-based programs as alternatives to traditional incarceration. However, the public perception of community corrections is less optimistic and, what is more, it often engenders the public opposition to the further development of community corrections programs. Naturally, public has its own reasons to oppose to community corrections which should be analyzed.
In fact, nowadays, one of the major problems that prevent community corrections from being accepted by the public is the lack of knowledge about the programs of corrections. Canadians often oppose to the implementation of community-based correction programs simply because they do not fully realize what these programs are, how they are supposed to be realized, and what the effect of these programs on the community will be. As a result, the public naturally apprehends of community corrections.
Unquestionably, to a significant extent, this problem is the result of the low effectiveness of the work of agencies that are responsible for community corrections programs. What is meant here is the fact that it is necessary to primarily inform the public about the essence of the corrections programs and the basic principles of their realization. To put it more precisely, it is necessary to inform the public about the variety of programs that currently exist and can be applied. Also, the public should know that these products will not produce any negative effect on the life of the community.
It is equally important that the public perfectly realized how the community corrections work so that people did not think that their community would become a kind of prison, but, in stark contrast, their life would not change dramatically. The encouragement of the public is also quite significant since people should realize that community corrections are not only cost saving but these programs are also humanitarian programs targeting at the help to those in need.
Unfortunately, the public remains meagerly informed about all these aspects of community corrections.
However, probably the major barrier in the way of community corrections to be accepted by the public and be normally perceived by Canadians is the fear of risk to public safety. In actuality, Canadians do not feel they will be safe if community corrections programs are realized in their communities.
No wonder that, at present, community-based alternatives are opposed by the public and are perceived rather negatively than positively. It should be said that the public has never fully accepted community corrections programs such as probation, fines, day and full parole, temporary absences and intermittent prison sentences. Obviously, in public perception it will be socially dangerous to place in the neighborhood houses or residential centers for offenders as this can threaten to the criminal situation in the community and decrease commercial attractiveness of the area. Such a fear leads to what specialists define as the NIMBY or Not In My Back Yard syndrome.
According to Webber (1987) the development of such a syndrome is, to a significant extent, provoked by the fear of crime among Canadians which has risen dramatically over the past few years although it is disproportionate to the actual crime rate.
Furthermore, fear and lack of information are the basic reasons for the opposition of public to community corrections programs and, moreover, the public perceives the funding of such programs as unreasonable wasting of public funds as money could be redirected on other needs related to people who also need public help and support because of certain health problems, for instance.
Moreover, Benzvy-Miller underlines that Canadians have a totally erroneous concept of corrections system and people simply “fear crime and expect that physical proximity to offenders will expose them to great risk” and, naturally, they are “afraid that a group home will somehow taint the neighborhood and cause property values to plummet” (1990:19).
Naturally, in such a situation it is quite difficult to change public perception of community corrections since the fear seems to be too strong and, along with the lack of knowledge, causes the opposition of Canadians to community corrections, regardless, the results of numerous researches that have quite a different view on community corrections.
The situation is seriously deteriorated by the negative impact of media on public perception. It is not a secret that media traditionally form an extremely negative image of an offender making him or her not just a kind of outcast but a socially dangerous person that practically needs to be totally isolated from the community. At least, this is the image of an offender created by media.
At the same time, it is also important how media represent community corrections to the audience. In fact, it is obvious that the Canadians do not properly understand how the criminal justice system functions and often they overestimate the threat of community corrections programs and the role of the media is really great as they wrongly represent community corrections creating wrong public perception of these programs. In such a situation, it is really important that media contributed to the objective informing of the audience and changed public perception of community corrections. It is worthy of mention that Reeves points out that “citizens must be helped to understand that effective community based programs are not simply another manifestation of a ‘soft crime’ philosophy. Instead, they offer a combination of rehabilitation and punishment. In short, they provide a chance to return offenders to the community as productive members of society” (1992:76).
Obviously, nowadays, the role of media is extremely significant and, to a significant extent, media can define public perception of community corrections.
Conclusion
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that at present there exist dramatically different views on community corrections in Canada. On the one hand, there are specialists who, on the basis of numerous researches, emphasize the positive effects of community corrections. On the other hand public perception of community corrections is totally different. This striking difference of public perception of community corrections is based on the lack of knowledge about community-based corrections programs and, what is more, traditional public perception of these programs is dramatically affected, if not to say shaped, by media. As a result, Canadians have a totally erroneous view on community corrections and, what is more, they simply fear these programs since people believe that they threaten to public safety.


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