Special Feature: Community Corrections
Community corrections has the power to change lives, reduce violence, and help build communities.
The vast majority of individuals arrested in America will eventually come into contact with a pretrial, probation, or parole officer. These corrections officials then have the opportunity to work with community treatment organizations to match the right supervision and service to the right person at the right time. These efforts can help individuals break the cycle of crime and offending, allowing them to reach their full potential.
Overall, corrections officials in the United States are responsible for supervising more than six million adults, either in prisons or jails or on probation or parole. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated one out of every 55 adults, or 4.5 million, were on probation or parole at year-end 2016.
In December 2018, the First Step Act (FSA) was passed. A major piece of legislation for criminal justice reform, the FSA aims to reform the federal prison system by providing rehabilitative support to offenders so they are better able to succeed once they return to their community. Additionally, the FSA includes the Second Chance Reauthorization (SCA) Act of 2018. Both the FSA and SCA are key to the provision of services and programming for returning offenders.
As a component of the FSA, the National Institute of Justice released an evaluation of best practices for academic and vocational programs. Overall, some correctional interventions, including education and employment programs, show promising effects, but these programs continue to be evaluated and there is still much to learn.
As the demographics and needs of the U.S. correctional population has changed, this brings about challenges for officials. To support the population with a behavioral health disorder, the Bureau of Justice Assistance funded a resource package to help parole authorities apply the lessons of evidence-based practices and promote effective collaborations with other partners.
New technology represents another avenue to safeguard the lives of officers and offenders while improving the efficiency and effectiveness of correctional practices. For example, a study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that automated kiosk reporting can help community supervision agencies manage high caseloads of low-risk clients more efficiently and without adverse public safety consequences. In turn, agencies can then redirect resources to supervising higher-risk clients with greater needs.
To help inform practitioners and policymakers, NIJ's CrimeSolutions.gov has reviewed community corrections programs and practices, detailing what works, what doesn't, and what is promising in achieving specific outcomes.
Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies: