Community-Based Correctional Programs Can Do More To Help Offenders

Gao ID: GGD-80-25 February 15, 1980

Congress has expressed concern about the adequacy of programs which assist offenders to reintegrate into the community. Offenders eligible for community-based correctional programs include those who have been released after completing their sentences, were on probation or parole, or were serving part of their sentence under supervised living arrangements. Although many of these offenders need help in order to successfully assume job, family, and other community responsibilities, only limited assistance is provided. It was found that the Bureau of Prisons had no system for determining which offenders would be sent to community facilities or the length of time they should stay. Another problem existed where community organizations were hindered in their efforts to find suitable employment for offenders because laws regulating trade and occupational licensing restricted the employment opportunities of offenders. However, the effect of the restrictions could be minimized if: (1) the Bureau of Prisons made better use of its community facilities; (2) probation officers did more to assist offenders; and (3) federal, state, and local agencies coordinated their efforts to help offenders in the community.

More could be done for reintegrating offenders into the community if the management of the Bureau of Prison's community programs was improved. Halfway houses need adequate statements of work, and their performance, as well as the performance of the Bureau's Community Treatment Centers (CTC), should be monitored. The Bureau needs a system whereby: (1) offenders are assigned to community facilities so that they are able to make a gradual transition to the community and receive maximum benefit from the services that are available; (2) comprehensive information is provided to federal and state probation officers and community facilities on the progress of offenders while incarcerated; and (3) unnecessary duplication of services and funding existing because community services for offenders were not adequately coordinated is eliminated. The Bureau should also improve contracting practices by: (1) acquiring qualified personnel to negotiate and monitor halfway house contracts; (2) providing halfway houses with adequate statements of work; and (3) obtaining and fully analyzing cost and pricing data from contractors. Furthermore, the Federal Probation System and State Authorities have not assured adequate identification of offenders' needs in presentence reports, development of comprehensive program plans for addressing offenders' needs, or routine reassessment of the offenders' progress in programs.


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