WELCOME HOME: COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS

You ever heard of “community corrections?”

If not, you have heard of probation and parole. Well, now they are called “community corrections,” along with any other type of sanctions or punishment that doesn’t happen in a prison or jail. Yes, we are moving into the era of “community corrections,” where probation, parole, house arrest, diversion programs, and halfway houses all have a new clean name…that no one can agree what it means.

Well for starters, your PO may now be your CSO…Community Supervision Officer. Sounds like he or she is serving the community. Maybe yes, maybe no. In some places, it’s the same old same old, with a new title. In other places, there is a real effort to integrate things like probation and parole into real communities. In New York City, for example, Community Supervision offices are actually in real communities, like Harlem, South Bronx and Brooklyn, where people live, and community leaders are asked to work with Parole Off…er…Community Supervision Officers to help facilitate successful reentry.

In Georgia, CSO’s are required to be in the neighborhoods, and interact with families to be more supportive of reintegration into society, and ditch the “trail ‘em, nail ‘em, and jail ‘em” attitude that too many PO’s have brandished over the years. That’s the kind of attitude that locks up people for what is called a “technical violation,” not a new offense, but a failure to comply with probation or parole terms such as paying fines or finding a job (guess a, those two are related!). Failure to appear for an appointment is a technical violation which occurs sometimes because you have to take off from work, which can get you fired, then see “paying fines” above.

Three things are true…(1) the system remains punitive before, during and after incarceration. You have to get a job, and those are hard to find without a criminal record. Tying freedom to finances is similarly punitive. The New York Times recently published a study of di