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Community Corrections

Community Corrections

Introduction

In a correctional facility, there are various activities that take place contrary to the belief that the main activity is prosecution of offenders. In order to understand this phenomenon, this paper will take the case of Florida correctional facility. Essentially, Florida correctional facility has a set of statutes that govern the procedural and sentencing of criminals in relation to the Criminal Procedure Law and the Code of Criminal Procedures. This paper also analyzes some of the activities that are related to a correctional facility, such as arraignment, and alternative sentencing, which includes probation, parole, drug courts, pretrial release, and community service.

Arraignment

During the arraignment, the following was observed. First, in accordance with the rule of law, an arrested criminal must be presented in the court of law not later than 24 hours after the arrest. During the arraignment, the most observable thing was the arrangement of the court room. The judge sat in front at a raised dais, while on his right there was the prosecution and on the left the defense. This is because the matter that the court was dealing with involved a criminal case. The court clerks were sitting right in front and below of the judge. The other part of the court room was reserved for the public who sat in rows. As soon as the judge entered the court room, all people stood up and immediately sat as the judge sat. As the prosecution started to present the case, there was some disturbance within the public gallery, but it was calmed by the security that was present at the entrance of the court room. After the prosecution presented its case, the defense rose up to present its matter. However, the two sides were not required to talk much as this was the day when the verdict was to be given. It was the third time the matter had been presented in the court. The judge gave his verdict, where he found out that the accused criminal was guilty of the murder.

During the break time, I interviewed the court clerk, who at first was not willing to speak about the operations of the court and more specifically about the matter that was before the court. However, he was able to give important information regarding some of the observations I made during the arraignment. First, I asked the clerk about the seating arrangement in the court room. First, he was quick to state that for the public gallery, seating is normally on the first-come basis. However, there are special cases, where group seats may be reserved, especially those directly related to the accused criminals, such as their family members (Maruschak, & Parks, 2012). For the judge, prosecution, and defense, as the court clerk stated, there is the tradition in all courts, where the judge takes higher position than all in court followed by prosecution and defense. He also mentioned to me about security checks at the entrance of the court as the session starts. At the court, complete silence is mandatory, therefore, when there is a fracas during the court session, security agents are always quick to respond and such individuals may also find themselves being charged for such kind of offence (Coker, 2002). Regarding the court, the clerk informed me that he had knowledge of capital offences’ cases, such as the one that the judge had just announced a verdict. Murder is a capital offense and custodial sentence may range from 20 years to life sentence. The clerk also stated that with the changes in human rights all over the world, death penalty has been removed and replaced with life sentence.

In Florida, there are rules and laws codified in the Criminal Procedure Law, which governs the procedure and sentencing aspects of criminal cases. Although they are different from the Penal Code, they streamline how criminal cases are handled, their progress and conclusions. The Criminal Procedure Law defines the following among others things; probation, parole, sentencing alternatives and prison release programs.

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Probation and Parole

In regard to probation, the law is very clear on the conditions, under which an offender is qualified to be on probation. Supervised probation is one of the major forms of probation, where the terms and conditions include the following: an individual must obey the federal, state, and local laws; he or she is required not to contact other prisoners; should pay all the court fees; should not possess any weapon; should report regularly to the probation officer; should also report any changes in his or her location or address to the probation officer in charge within 72 hours; he or she is not allowed to leave the state without a formal permission; should report any changes in employment status within 72 hours; he or she is not allowed to use  alcohol or any other form of illegal drugs as well as not to have any contact with the victim without permission of the authority or court (Maruschak, & Parks, 2012). There is also the unsupervised probation, where the court has to be satisfied with an individual as having met the specific guidelines, such as obeying all the federal, state, and local laws; reporting any contact with any police officer to the probation officer within 72 hours, as well as work on the community service as required; paying all fees required by the court, as well as not committing any violence while on probation. This type of probation is not common as compared to supervised probation. Probation can be revoked once the offender violates any of the above terms and conditions.

Parole is a situation, where a person is released from jail before his or her jail term ends. Prison authorities must be satisfied that an individual has been fully reformed before he or she can be qualified to be paroled. Legal provisions for parole vary from one state to the other. In some states, powers of parole are vested in the president. An individual on parole is supervised and allowed to live his or her normal life. In correctional facilities, parole is used as a way of rehabilitating offenders, who have shown change in their behavior (Maruschak, & Parks, 2012). This is mainly used in community correctional facilities, where they view it less expensive to parole offenders who have changed their behaviors. There are various alternative sentences, such as fines, probation, community service, as well as imprisonment. A person may be punished by law through the use of the following sentences, which, of course, vary, according to the nature of crime committed.

Prison release programs also vary from one state to the other. Some of the release programs include: probation, parole, and completion of the jail term (Pisciotta, 2012).

Community and Drug Court

I had an opportunity to interview a jail officer at the Florida correctional center, who was well informed about the operations and programs of the prison. He revealed to me that the jail has a drug court that deals with issues of drugs in relation to the use and sale of drugs. This is one of the courts that have been instrumental in development of correctional facilities within the prison. Some of the issues that the correctional facilities deal with include: first, substance abuse, where there are strict rules regarding substance abuse for the felons. This normally targets individuals who have been jailed for either use or sale of drugs and, most specifically, the drug addicts (Drake, 2012). It has well tailored programs that act as a rehabilitation center for drug addicts even before they complete their term. The facility also handles individuals, not necessary in prison, but within the community, who have been influenced by drugs. Secondly, the prison has programs that aim at development of talents of prisoners. This is geared towards training the felons on technical skills so that they can be useful to the community after completion of their terms. They end up creating employment in the community or using the skills they gained to work for the betterment of the community. The jail counselor also revealed to me that the problem they have had with prisoners when they are released is lack of housing, something that takes them back to the streets (Maruschak, & Parks, 2012). This creates a chain, where these persons always find themselves on the wrong arm of the law. Hence, it is not only within the prison that housing programs have been done but also in the reformed prisons upon their release. They are assisted to settle and begin their life afresh. Another important concern that prison authorities have to deal with every day is the issue of mental health. As I spoke to the jail counselor, he revealed to me that it is mainly his area of work. He focuses on counseling and developing positive mental health of prisoners as well as changing their attitude towards life as prisoners. This plays a vital role in facilitating the process of reform as well as making them useful members of the society.

A defendant may receive a probation sentence if he or she violates the terms, under which the probation was granted. As analyzed above, there are rules and regulations governing probation upon violation one can be sentenced. Some of these include: contacting the victim; not obeying the federal, state or local laws; engaging in alcohol or drug use; not reporting to the probation officer, as required among other regulations. Probation is not allowed for crimes, such as assault, murder, and robbery with violence. In most states, these kinds of crime attract a life sentence; hence an offender cannot be qualified for probation. On the other hand, crimes of violence or capital offences often require that one serves at least 2/3 of the sentence, which is roughly sixteen years (Drake, 2012). However, this does not mean that all people who serve for this period often get parole. It highly depends on the system in place and the rules and regulations governing a given state.

A violation of parole or probation results from going against the terms and conditions, under which an offender is allowed to undergo parole or probation. As stated above, some of the rules include obeying the federal, state, and local laws; not being able to pay the court fee required; being found with a weapon, contacting other felons; not completing the work allocated by the probation officer; change of address or physical location without informing the officer in charge within 24 hours; change of work without informing and failing to report to the probation officer regularly (Maruschak, & Parks, 2012). There are also other special terms and conditions that an offender on probation or parole may be subjected to. They are an attending of counseling sessions, refrain from domestic violence, abidance by curfew among other special considerations, which depend on the nature of crime as well as behavior of the defendant. There are a number of crimes, for which the accused criminal may be eligible for community service. This individual is mainly referred to as a petty offender, such as a commuter, who may be found not observing traffic rules, having a row with neighbors within a community, or having a fight with somebody within a village among other petty offences.

Pretrial Release

Forms of pretrial release used in a court of law include: bail, cash bond, property bond, as well as recognizance. The form of pretrial release depends on the nature of the case and the status of the individual. This also varies from one state to another as cases are considered differently by different courts. For instance, in crimes related to guns or drugs, the defendant is most likely to be given a cash bond.

Sentencing Alternatives and Treatment

Some of the sentencing alternatives include: fines, restitution, diversion, community service and probation. Fines are given to less serious crimes, especially to first-time offenders. In restitution, the money paid by either the defendant or the government goes to the victim(s) (Maruschak, & Parks, 2012). In fines, the money goes to either federal or local government. It viewed as a way of replacing stolen or damaged properties. On the other hand, diversion involves dropping of criminal charges when the defendant completes the application of a diversion program. Defendants are required to participate in rehabilitation programs. This involves cases, such as child neglect, child abuse, and domestic violence (Coker, 2002). Lastly, probation involves release of a suspect under certain conditions in a given period that he or she is required to be supervised and show observable changes.

Community service

Community service involves unpaid work done by offenders in designated areas while under supervision. Normally, individuals under probation are mostly subjected under community service. They are required to complete the work assigned or else their freedom is cancelled.

Summary and Conclusion

Community correctional facilities are vital in maintaining law and order within the society. In the case of Florida Correctional Facility analyzed above, it is evident that there are various activities that go on within its premises. It does not only entail prosecution of offenders but also correction of those to become responsible members of society. For instance, during the interview with the jail officer, it became evident that the facility has a drug court, which is meant to deal with drug addicts to ensure that they do not only serve their term but also end up becoming productive members of society. Offenders can also be released through parole or probation, which depends on the nature of crime as well as whether an offender has reformed or not.