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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
There are approximately 5 million adults under some form of community supervision in the United States, making community corrections one of the largest components of the criminal justice system (Chiancone 2010; Glaze and Bonczar 2010; Viglione 2018). Between 700,000 to 800,000 previously incarcerated persons are released from jail or prison and returned to the community each year (Durose, Cooper, and Snyder 2014; Porter 2011; Carson 2018); however, more than half of these individuals reoffend—recidivism rates average around 68 percent for rearrests within the first three years post-release (Alper, Duros, and Markman 2018). While community policing has largely been viewed as the process of collaboration and partnership between civilians and law enforcement, when examining prisoner reentry, we find numerous ways police law enforcement agencies partner with community corrections agencies to reduce recidivism and protect the public.
Though viewed through separate lenses, community corrections (i.e., probation and parole) and policing agencies share similar roles, responsibilities, and missions to the community. Both organizations seek to address community-level crime problems in a way that promotes public safety and uplifts community well-being. Equally, these agencies seek to promote a client’s successful reintegration through establishing civilian partnerships and maintaining agency presence throughout the community. Specifically looking at the last few decades, both types of agency have sought to improve the policies and procedures of their front-line staff by implementing evidenced-based problem-solving techniques in their daily work strategies. In community corrections, this includes using risk-needs assessment tools and targeting behaviors with rehabilitative techniques. In policing, this includes problem-solving and community-oriented policing strategies. Both result in more effective crime control and prevention methods.
Partnerships between police and community corrections agencies create beneficial opportunities for both organizations. Policing agencies’ pursuit of public safety thrives on the communication between civilians, community organizations, and other law enforcement entities. Continuous communication and information sharing between agencies aids in deterring crime. According to Gregory Hunt, former police officer with the Coral Gables (Florida) Police Department and retired U.S. Probation Officer for the District of Columbia, “There is a limit to what probation officers can do with police officers. Much of probation work involves information that you can’t relate to law enforcement, such as mental health issues and drug abuse. On the other hand, there is this part of it in which you believe as a probation officer that this person may be a danger to the community or committing substantial amount of crime. Then it becomes incumbent on the probation officer to be involved with law enforcement, so they understand the situation.”
Hunt added a personal reflection: “At some point I had an individual on supervision who was running a large drug operation out of his business. I had to communicate with police officers about this case. Likewise, police made me aware when the same individual went out of state to purchase more drugs. In that case, I was able to take action and have that person arrested. There is that part where probation officers work with police officers to reduce the amount of crime.” In addition, communication and collaboration between police and probation agencies can assist officers in determining who should be arrested or what other appropriate alternatives to making an arrest are. Collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the groups they serve supports a solution-oriented approach to crime and provides the space for the community to trust law enforcement. Says Gregory Hunt, “It is important that police officers understand that there are individuals who are trying to reform and rehabilitate. It becomes important for police officers to discuss with probation officers how [we] can avoid arresting such individuals.”
In order to facilitate the process of rehabilitation, it is important for Community Corrections agencies to work to strengthen the relationship between clients, the community, law enforcement agencies, and supervising officers to create an environment that increases client success, strengthens trust, and improves the community. Court Services Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) a Community Corrections agency in Washington, DC, has developed an understanding of how important community partnerships are in supporting the agency’s overall mission and the community. CSOSA has developed a significant partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to conduct Accountability Tours in the community. Accountability Tours are home visits conducted with CSOSA Community Supervision Officers (CSO) in partnership with the MPD that establish rapport between clients and MPD officers. These visits give the MPD and CSOs a unified presence in the community, a partnership which is instrumental in the role that both agencies play in public safety. Additionally, the visits provide the opportunity for officers to speak directly with clients and their families about concerns in the community. This process assists with relationship building and facilitates information sharing during case management and investigations.
Associate Director Marcus Hodges of CSOSA describes Accountability Tours as a critical component of CSOSA’s commitment to public safety: “Accountability Tours are not about enforcement; they are about accountability from public safety agencies who are working towards the success of the client.” While public perception of law enforcement has often framed policing activities as an opportunity for arrest, Hodges notes that Accountability Tours make the community aware that the MPD, and CSOSA, are there to help: “When you attach a CSO and an MPD officer, the community is able to see that unification in a different way. They are able to see two agencies seeking to identify the needs of the community and the client and taking steps to change the perception that we are out to get them. It also helps improve the reputation of MPD officers, because clients are able to encounter officers in a way that is not adversarial—it’s more about officers letting the community know that they are there to help.”
Another benefit to the community, according to Hodges, is the ability for the two agencies to collaborate through information sharing. CSOs, even with an extensive network of collateral contacts, are often unaware of some activities that supervised clients are engaged in. As a result of these collaborative efforts, MPD officers can share information with CSOs about new developments that may impact cases under supervision. They are also able to notify CSOs of client participation in potentially risky behavior, allowing supervision officers to be proactive in mitigating risks, preventing violations and new arrests, similar to what was described by Hunt.
When asked about the greatest benefit of accountability tours, Associate Director Hodges stated, “Collaboration, true collaboration, where you have both agencies embedded in each other’s shop with the unified goal of improving the community, reducing recidivism, and wanting to build a successful path for clients.”
When discussing the impact of Accountability Tours on the community, Hodges noted that they allow CSOSA and the MPD to create additional collaborative efforts that are beneficial to the community, one such initiative being Team Up to Clean Up. This initiative allows MPD officers and CSOs to go into the neighborhoods they serve and clean up the streets, showing the community that the agencies are invested in the betterment of the community on multiple fronts.
Collaborative efforts among law enforcement agencies, while they allow for information sharing, also promote community trust and can improve the quality of life in the community. As seen in the relationship between community corrections agencies and police departments, collaboration can produce outcomes that are not directly connected to arrests and case closures, but are more about changing lives. “The future of the criminal justice system is more than just arresting people,” according to Gregory Hunt. Collaborative partnerships provide the opportunity for parts of the criminal justice system to operate as one entity with a common goal, thus building stronger, better, and safer communities.
Training & Partner Engagement Division
Social Science Analyst
Resources & Technical Assistance Division
Alper, M., Duros, M.R. & Markman, J. (2018). “2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year follow-up period (2005-2014).” Special Report NCJ 250975. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Carson, E.A. (2018). Prisoners in 2016. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Chiancone, J. (2010). A profile of young people in the juvenile justice system: Data from OJJDP’s collections. In Juvenile Justice in the Age of the Second Chance Act, the Youth Promise Act, and the JJDP Reauthorization Bill: Research Guided Policy Implications for Maximizing Reentry Initiatives for Adolescents (Congressional Briefing). Retrieved from http://cebcp.org/outreach-symposia-and-briefings/juvenile-justice/.
Durose, M.R., Cooper, A.D. & Snyder, H.N. (2014). “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 states in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010.” NCJ 244205. Washington, D.C: Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Glaze, L., & Bonczar, T. P. (2010). Probation and parole in the United States, 2009 (Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin No. NCJ 231674). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
Viglione, J. 2018. A multi-level examination of organizational context on adult probation officer attitudes toward evidenced-based practice. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 62(5), 1331-1356.
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