The pressing problem of overcrowding in prisons has led many to turn to alternatives to incarceration as a solution to dealing with our large population in need of correctional supervision. Community corrections are used to reduce overcrowding in prisons and minimize the negative effects that occur as a result of interacting with the criminal justice system. Moreover, community corrections offer a number of benefits, including cost savings (intermediate sanctions such as probation and parole are less expensive than traditional incarceration) and social benefits (individuals on probation/parole are employed in the community, contributing to the tax base, supporting themselves, and better able to maintain prosocial relationships with friends, family, and children).
There are a number of challenges associated with community corrections. As your readings note, working in this field can be a minefield of ethical contradictions and dilemmas, as community correctional officers are increasingly expected to fulfill dual roles–they are expected to play the role of enforcer of conditions of probation AND, simultaneously, the role of social worker. This can be especially difficult, as the conditions of probation are sometimes difficult, if not impossible, for many individuals to meet. Thus, criminal justice professionals working in community corrections are placed in an extremely difficult ethical position–as much as they seek to encourage/help those they are supervising, they are also tasked with enforcing sometimes stringent requirements that may undermine a probationer/parolee’s success.
To begin our discussion of ethics and community corrections, please:
1) Complete these explorations of ethical issues in community corrections:
- Reading One: Cheeseman – Ethics in Probation and Parole
- · Cheeseman, K., San Miguel, C., Frantzen, D. & Nored, L. 2011. Everyday Ethics for the Criminal Justice Professional. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
· Reading Two: Miller – The Synthetic Officer
- · Miller, J. (2015). Contemporary modes of probation officer supervision: The triumph of the “synthetic” officer?. Justice Quarterly, 32(2), 314-336.
· Reading Three: Ewing – How Minor Violations
- Ewing, M. (2017). How minor probation violations can lead to major jail time. The Atlantic. Retrieved: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/philadelphia-detainer-holds/529758/
2) Review the“Ethical Community Corrections” PowerPoint
3) Watch this John Oliver piece on prisoner re-entry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJtYRxH5G2k)
4) Watch this ‘To Prison for Poverty‘ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn_yKqf-kOI&list=PLg4Wyfuz7faHMaaetvj1sYu1li4nN-Oh5)
5) After reviewing the materials, post a brief reflection in which you address AT LEAST THREE of the questions below. Make sure that your post cites AT LEAST TWO of this week’s assigned readings AND AT LEAST ONE video clip, and be sure that your post and reply fulfill Discussion Post requirements.
A) Of the four main types of community corrections officers discussed in the reading (the Law Enforcers, Time Servers, Therapeutic Agents, and Synthetic Officers), which type do you think is best/most effective?
- Which of our primary ethical perspectives (formalism/deontology or utilitarianism/teleology) informs this role? Explain.
B) Is it ethical to subject offenders to paying for things that they are made to do by the courts (even if they don’t have the money)? Explain, using one of the dominant ethical perspectives to support your reasoning.
C) The average case load for probation officers across the U.S. is currently about at least 150 probationers. Identify two strategies/things that community corrections officers can do to ethically and effectively manage such heavy workloads in a political and social environment that is not likely to support any significant increases in funding for correctional programs
D) Imagine you are a community corrections officer working for a privately owned probation management firm. You don’t make much money, you have a heavy caseload, and your superiors heavily emphasize the importance of enforcing ALL probation conditions – no matter what.
- Which probation violations would you be most likely to enforce (curfew? employment? clean drug testing (which types of drugs)?) and which would you be more likely to overlook?
- Explain your reasoning and the ethical underpinnings of your approach –why is what you are doing best for the offender and for the community?
Throughout the quarter, you will be responsible for engaging in class discussions based on selected class materials. These discussions will find you posting your thoughts and replying to peers. Online class discussions will consist of:
I) REFLECTIVE DISCUSSION POSTS: Approximately every other week of this quarter will find you writing and posting reflective discussions of AT LEAST 350 WORDS (approximately the equivalent of three quarters of one double-spaced page in a word document) to the appropriate thread on the course discussion board. I will provide specific discussion topics and guidelines for exactly what you should write your reflection about. Reflection/discussion posts should be written in a scholarly manner and demonstrate you have read, understood, and thoughtfully considered the material. It is important that you read and synthesize the concepts, theories, and ideas we’ll be discussing and be prepared to explain them IN YOUR OWN WORDS.
- While every reflection post MUST directly refer to AND cite the week’s assigned readings, YOU MAY NOT USE ANY DIRECT QUOTES IN DISCUSSION POSTS.
- This prohibition against using direct quotes means that you will be drawing from the assigned readings and materials by synthesizing ideas, paraphrasing important points, and discussing the authors’ points in your own words. As such, it’s important that you utilize in-text citations when drawing on resources and that all sources cited in the body of your discussions are included in a “Works Cited” section at the close of each post.
- For additional guidance regarding WHEN and HOW to cite, please see:
- When You Must Cite
- APA Citation Format: In-Text Citations
- APA Citation Format: Works-Cited Section
- Whenever appropriate, posts should include relevant references and information you have learned in previous courses, from earlier readings in this course, and from other outside scholarly sources such as journal articles and books.
- As these reflections account for 40% of your final grade, it is in your best interest to spend a good deal of time carefully crafting each post.
- Please demonstrate critical thinking through a willingness to question your own pre-existing ideas and perspectives onvarious topics. Also, don’t be afraid to challenge the authors: In other words, questions about/critiques of authors’ and researchers’ methods, assumptions, conclusions, and perspectives should form within your own mind as you read.
II) CRITICAL THINKING DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: At the end of each reflection/discussion post, provide AT LEAST TWO questions related to the assigned readings/material that you think would be interesting for the class to discuss.
- Discussion questions MUST BE in-depth, interesting questions that require your classmates to draw on the assigned materials and readings: THESE ARE NOT OPINION QUESTIONS! The goal is to inspire sophisticated and analytical conversation; thus, it is important to take the time construct thoughtful, answerable questions that are clear, engaging, and relevant to the topic and reading(s) for the week.
- Make the section with your discussion questions separate from the rest of your reflection by including an extra empty line before the discussion questions makes the questions easier to see.
- Discussion questions DO NOT count as part of the 350-word minimum required of initial reflection posts.