Ever since the first prison opened in the United States in 1790, incarceration has been the center of the nations criminal justice system. Over this 200 year period many creative alternatives to incarceration have been tried, and many at a much lower cost than imprisonment. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s when our criminal justice systems across the country began experiencing a problem with overcrowding of facilities. This problem forced lawmakers to develop new options for sentencing criminal offenders.
Unlike jail or prisons, which create an expensive cycle of violence and crime, these alternatives actually prevent violence and strengthen communities. Community corrections programs provide many communities with local punishment options as an alternative to prison or jail. These sanction programs are lower cost alternatives to the increased prison and jail constructions, based on the cost per offender. These programs provide local courts, state departments of corrections, and state parole boards with a broad range of correctional options for offenders under their jurisdiction. The overall goals of these programs are to fit the appropriate punishment with the crime, the offender is punished and held accountable, and the public safety is protected.
There are several programs available as an alternative to incarceration, the earliest being probation. Probation is still widely used for first time offenders. This program allows the offender a sort of second chance in the community. Offenders on probation must report to their probation officer anywhere from once a month to three or four times a week depending on their case need. On the average offenders are required to report once a we...
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... and develop improved self-respect. Program participants are housed separately from the general prison population, although in some programs they are within sight and earshot of general population inmates. Several state boot camp programs focus their efforts and program design on changing inmate behavior by means other than punishment and hard labor. Upon graduation of the program, parolees participate in an intensive aftercare-monitoring program for six months and complete the remainder of their sentence under parole supervision.
There are many alternative programs in place, such as the ones I have talked about to help ease the problem of overcrowding in facilities, and although nothing is 100 percent effective in diminishing our countries crime rate, these programs are a good start in helping to divert offenders from a continuous cycle of crime and violence.
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