Community Corrections Director
113 W. Washington St.
Burns, Oregon 97720
Community corrections is a function of state government operated in partnership with local, county-operated community corrections agencies. Community corrections activities include supervision, community-based sanctions, and services directed at offenders who have committed felony crimes and have been placed under supervision by the courts (probation) or the Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (parole/post -prison supervision).
In Oregon, there are approximately 30,000 felons under supervision in the community compared with 11,800 felons in prison. The majority of felons managed in the community are not convicted of a new felony after supervision. Conviction for a new felony within three years of beginning supervision (probation or post-prison supervision) is the definition of recidivism in Oregon. Over 70 percent of those on supervision do not recidivate.
Community corrections provides a cost-effective means to hold offenders accountable while at the same time addressing the causes of criminal behavior and reducing the risk of future criminal behavior. Each aspect of community corrections - supervision, sanctions, and services - is important to this approach. County community corrections departments develop sanctions such as electronic surveillance, community work crews, day reporting centers, residential work centers, and intensive supervision programs. Development of other services such as alcohol/drug treatment, sex offender treatment, employment, and mental health services are important for long-term behavior change.
Probation/parole officers manage felony offenders who are in the community by concentrating the greatest efforts on the 18 percent of offenders who are most likely to commit new crimes. These offenders have often been in prison and have four or more previous felony convictions. Offenders considered the highest risk are given the greatest amount of attention, in the form of closer supervision and also in the level of services and sanctions employed in their management. The contacts include home visits, office visits, employment checks, and checks with other agencies including law enforcement and social service agencies. Contact is progressively less frequent as risk decreases. Additionally, offenders are often subject to unannounced home visits, searches, random urine testing for drug use, or polygraph testing to monitor compliance with conditions of supervision.
Besides the various sanctions and services, the probation/parole officer can respond quickly to violation behavior of offenders through a system called Structured Sanctions. This system allows the officer to hold the offender accountable for behavior in a consistent manner through imposition of a swift sanction commensurate with that behavior.
Oregon’s Administrative Sanctions Program
Oregon’s structured sanctions program was enacted into law in 1993. This law gave PO’s the authority to apply immediate consequences to offenders on probation when they violated conditions of supervision. This practice was already established by policy for offenders on parole and post-prison supervision, the Board having the authority to create an administrative sanctions process for offenders under their jurisdiction. Structured sanctions are named after the sanctioning grid in place to structure decision-making about the appropriate response to a particular offender for a particular violation, thus providing for consistency from PO to PO and from county to county.
Goals of structured sanctions:
- To make supervision more effective in protecting the public by responding to violations swiftly and with certainty: PO’s do not wait for a court hearing in order to provide a consequence for a violation of the conditions of supervision.
- To reduce the number of violators who require revocation by responding to violating behavior before it reaches a level of seriousness requiring incarceration and by making sure all appropriate intermediate community alternatives are used before revocation: In the past, an officer might wait until there had been a number of violations before initiating a court process in response. By intervening in problem behavior early, quickly and directly, the PO is more likely to gain compliance and to avoid a revocation. In addition, there is a range of possible interventions and programs available in the community that may be more effective in changing behavior than incarceration would be.
- To ensure that similar probation violators who commit similar violations are similarly punished: The sanctioning grid provides consistency to the process.
- To reduce the cost to the public associated with judicially conducted probation violation hearings and affect future cost reductions in judicial/court time, indigent defense, district attorney time, probation/parole officer time: Court hearings are avoided when the PO has the authority to apply a sanction.
- To set priorities for the use of criminal justice resources and provide more consistent use of intermediate punishments: Court processes and the associated costs are reserved for those for whom other responses have been ineffective.
Want to learn more? Visit the Oregon Department of Corrections for a full discussion on the programs and services that help to protect our communities.