Community Correction Centers as used in the United States provide a form of alternative punishment for offenders whose crimes are of a non violent nature. In the US, two forms of correctional centers models are in existence. One of the models combines the procedures of correction programs as found in community centers with judicial sentencing meaning that offenders get other alternatives like probation and parole. The second model allows correctional institution officials to redirect offenders who have already been sentenced into different sanction programs with the option of parole and probation. The two options are used as a way of reducing overcrowding in prisons as well as a means of reducing the cost associated with keeping offenders in prisons since this cost is too high. In the correctional facilities, offenders are sentenced to community service as opposed to those who receive jail sentences. Unlike prisons they offer rehabilitation and correctional services (Nieto, 1996, para. 1-2)
Due to the increasing costs associated with constructing new prisons and the cost spent on maintaining every offender in prison, the community correctional facilities offer a cheaper alternative especially following the economic crisis that hit the United States as well as other countries. The general goal of such facilities is to offer the correct form of punishment to an offender which is in line with the offence committed as opposed to sending all offenders in jail yet some did not engage in violent crime activities (Nieto, 1996, para. 3-4)
There have been reported cases where non violent offenders such as drug addicts and burglars have found their way into prisons with long term sentences yet they would have been better off in community correctional facilities where they would get an opportunity to undergo rehabilitation and be put into reform programs that enable them to acquire important life skills such as how to earn an honest living. This way better results would be achieved with the offenders as the more structured program that is present in community correctional centers would provide stability and a chance at reforming them (Richards & Kanigher, 2008, para. 4-5)
Due to the economic recession, the United States government has been forced to make large budget cuts in a majority of sectors as a result of the prevalent budget deficits that are being experienced in most of the States. The corrections departments have for a long time been shielded from budget cuts but the crisis being experienced is too significant that this cannot continue to be the case. Prison correctional facilities have had to contend with reduced funding and those in charge are being forced to make difficult decisions as far as their budgets are concerned. Michigan and Kansas states are some of the states experiencing corrections budget deficits with margins as big as twelve and twenty three percent respectively (Engel, Len, Larivee, John, Luedeman, & Richard. 2009, para. 1-3)
My Position on the Increased Use of Community Correctional Facilities in Light of the Economic Crisis
In this light I support the increased use of community correctional facilities with the possibility of parole and probation as well as house arrests for non violent offenders as the United States budget cannot accommodate the costs associated with running prisons which are way too high. Aside from the cost factor, some of the offences committed by the said offenders are better off punished by strictly monitored community service, house arrests and stays in community correctional facilities which offer structured rehabilitation programs. The state of Nevada is known for its tough stance on crime and its hard-hitting sentencing system has seen it being among the states with the highest imprisonment rate (Goldman, 2007, para. 10)
Despite the high imprisonment rate in the state, studies carried out have shown its probation rate to be among the lowest in the country. This has been attributed to the state’s continued resistance to accommodate alternative forms of punishment which are obviously less expensive and opted for the largely expensive imprisonment as its basic form of punishment. This means that the state also has had to contend with one of the highest per capita spending on its prisoners amounting to a spending of about two hundred and twenty million dollars in a year (Richards, Kanigher & German, 2008, para, 4-7)
The economy at present can no longer support such spending as the state is already experiencing a budget deficit of about one billion US dollars. This has led to budget cuts in learning institutions and institutions charged with the provision of social services, health services among others. As a result of this, alternative options have to be found on how to deal with the situation in these sectors and the prison correction sector is no exception. The alternative in this case can be found in community correctional facilities, parole and having offenders in house arrests. It is important to note that this option cannot be made available to all offenders but only to non violent offenders.
While it is argued that alternative punishment like probation and parole often results into increased crime rates, comparative statistics with those of other states paint a different picture. This has been attributed to the course of action that has been taken with such non violent offenders in these states. Massachusetts is one such state where the use of community correctional facilities with the alternative of probation and parole has been successful. In Massachusetts, the correctional services are provided under the state’s Department of Correction. The department oversees the running of various facilities which offer specialized programs for the different levels of offenders. They include security facilities, community correction centers and specialized facilities which deal with offenders requiring medical help for example the Bridgewater State Hospital and Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (Clarke, 2008, pp. 3-8)
In terms of crime rates, statistics show that the state has a far lesser rate compared to that of Nevada. The rate of probation is higher compared to that of Nevada. This is because it diverts most of its offenders to community correction centers and others are left to live in their homes under supervision and are also required to make regular visits to the community centers for community service and rehabilitation check ups such as regular drug testing. They are also educated in the states correctional education facilities which means that they are provided with necessary skills and employment training which comes as a big help to them as they live as reformed citizens. The state of Minnesota also has a similar program which has so far proved successful. Nevada and other states with similar thinking can therefore learn from the two states as well as others with similar programs so that they can cut their spending on prison facilities and prisoners as this would mean that the offenders use less money with the possibility of better results (Richards & Kanigher, 2008, para. 4-7)
Impact on Inmate Sanctions
The use of community correctional facilities as opposed to prisons to deal with non violent offenders does not lessen the impact on the United States inmate sanctions as it does not allow the offenders to go without punishment. It only offers alternative punishment. It continues to supervise such offenders as they are undergoing different alternatives offered by these programs. For example they are expected to regularly report to these centers where their progress is monitored. Those who serve their sentences under home arrest programs are also strictly monitored.
The government’s decision on whether to increasingly continue using community correctional centers as alternatives to prisons and jails should come naturally in this tough economic times. This is not just because it offers an economically viable alternative but because it has also been proven by statistical evidence that it works and is therefore the way to go. Alternative correctional facilities should be used as a long term alternative even after the economic crisis blows over as it will save the government huge amounts of money which can be allocated to other viable sectors and services such as healthcare and education which continuously require more funding. It will also provide an opportunity for non violent offenders to serve terms which tally with their crimes and reduce cases of people serving inflated sentences which are not in accordance with their crimes. The programs also give an opportunity to offenders to come out as better people who can be able to lead normal lives and as such contribute to the general development of the country.
Community correctional centers which offer non violent offenders have proven to be effective in dealing with such situations and should therefore be given priority when it comes to dealing with associated crimes. They also come with the benefit of lower costs which is of great significance in these harsh economic times. If governed in a proper manner, they can lead to even better results and as such the state should invest in their development.
Clarke, H. (2008). Massachusetts Department of Correction: Program Description Booklet. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Department of Correction. Web.
Engel, L., Larivee, J., & Luedeman, R. (2009). Reentry and the Economic Crisis: An Examination of Four States and Their Budget Efforts. Corrections today. Web.
Goldman, A. (2007). The Quest for Redemption. Web.
Nieto, M. (1996). Community Correction Punishments: An Alternative to Incarceration for Nonviolent Offenders. California: California Research Bureau. Web.
Richards, A. & Kanigher, S. (2008). Two say treatment would have been better option than cell walls. Web.
Richards, A. & Kanigher, S. (2008). Services Help Determine Whether Probation Succeeds. Web.
Richards, A., Kanigher, S. & German, J. (2008).Locking up criminals’ locks in rising costs: Tough sentencing laws keep inmates streaming to crowded facilities. Web.