Community-based Corrections

Jeffrey A. Butts (1995). Community-based Corrections. In the Encyclopedia of Social Work, 19th Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 549-555. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.

Community corrections programs are an important and cost-effective part of both the juvenile and adult justice systems. Evaluations have shown community corrections programs to be a viable alternative to incarceration for many offenders. In order to understand the role of community corrections programs, it is necessary to differentiate the functions of punishment and corrections. Punishment is a retributive reaction to an offender’s violation of the law. Through punishment, society indicates its disapproval of certain forms of behavior such as violence, theft, and the use of illicit drugs. A secondary goal of punishment may be to deter future law violations by the offender (specific deterrence) or similar violations by other potential offenders (general deterrence). Punishment, however, primarily is social retribution for a wrongful act.

Corrections, on the other hand, is primarily an effort to influence or correct unlawful behavior. Corrections programs seek to reduce future law violations by teaching offenders that certain behaviors are wrong and will result in negative consequences and that other types of behavior may be substituted for illegal acts. Whereas punishment is simply an event, corrections is a process through which behavioral outcomes are achieved. Community corrections programs can involve elements of punishment as well as corrections.