The mission of the Office of Community Corrections is the establishment of intermediate sanctions which offer a continuum of sanctions and services for probation, parole, sheriffs and the Department of Correction. This interagency and community collaboration supports public safety.
In the early 1990's the Commonwealth of Massachusetts commenced a systemic effort to provide for more effective and efficient criminal justice sentencing and specifically address prison overcrowding. As a result, the Office of Community Corrections was established in 1996. The Office of Community Corrections is a division of the Office of the Commissioner of Probation.
Prison Overcrowding - In 1980 5,441 people were committed to county houses of correction in Massachusetts. By the end of the decade the number of county commitments increased more than 150% to 13,721. At the state prisons the number of people committed increased by more than 200% from 1,234 in 1980 to 3,794 in 1990. In 1997 county commitments peaked at 19,842.
Boston Bar Association (BBA)/ Crime and Justice Foundation Report - In 1990, faced with a crisis affecting the criminal justice system the Boston Bar Association and the Crime and Justice Foundation convened a task force to study the prison overcrowding problem and make policy recommendations toward its resolution.
Recommendations - While the BBA task force made no inquiry into the underlying cause of increased prison commitments it characterized the problem as being a result of increasing incarceration rates, longer sentences and jailing of substance abusers. The task force resolved that it would not be possible to “build our way out” of the problem. Among the recommendations it made were:
- Establish a sentencing commission to revise sentencing law, develop sentencing guidelines and serve as principal author for future sentencing amendments
- Establish intermediate sanctions using the latest programmatic technologies
In recommending intermediate sanctions the task force referred to the lack of options between probation and incarceration as a serious gap in the criminal justice system. The task force found that “there are many offenders for whom a sanction greater than probation is appropriate and others for whom prison is not appropriate.” The task force recommended intermediate sanctions that incorporate “supervision—through urinalysis, daily schedules and a regular reporting structure; accountability—through curfews and community service; and treatment—through substance abuse counseling, employment and training.”
Truth in sentencing
As a result of the public debate over criminal justice policy, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a series of reforms commonly referred to as “Truth in Sentencing” laws. Among these laws were statutes that established the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission and the Office of Community Corrections. The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission was charged with promoting truth in sentencing, proposing modifications of law for sentencing, and proposing sentencing guidelines that incorporate intermediate sanctions. The Office of Community Corrections was charged with development and implementation of intermediate sanctions.
Consistency with Massachusetts Sentencing Commission
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 211F, Section 2, Subsection (c) the executive director of the Office of Community Corrections shall work in consultation with the [sentencing] commission…to ensure consistency between sentencing guidelines and community corrections.
Intermediate Sanction Levels
The Office of Community Corrections adopted Intermediate Sanction Levels from the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission’s Report to the General Court, April 10, 1996, “The commission... adopted the notion of a continuum of four levels of intermediate sanctions, based on the constraints on personal liberty associated with the sanction...” Community corrections centers are designed to facilitate the intensive supervision of offenders, delivering integrated services and sanctions which correspond to intermediate sanction levels three and four.
Sentencing to community corrections center
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 211F, Section 3, Subsection (a) “Any court exercising jurisdiction is authorized to sentence any eligible offender to a community corrections program…” and that sentence is imposed, “…as a condition of probation…”
Referral to community corrections center for reentry
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 211F, Section 4, Subsection (c) “…the resources of community corrections programs shall be utilized by the parole board for the purpose of parole supervision.”
Community Corrections Centers (CCC)
Community corrections centers are community-based facilities that facilitate intensive supervision through bundled sanctions and services, including treatment and education, to high-risk offenders via Intermediate Sanction Levels.
Among the sanctions delivered at community corrections centers are:
- Electronic monitoring
- Community service
- Drug & alcohol testing
- Day reporting
Among the services provided at community corrections centers are:
- Substance abuse treatment
- GED/ABE/ESL or comparable educational component
- Communicable disease prevention education
- Job readiness training and placement
- Referral to Department of Public Health or Department of Mental Health service providers
- Women's services
Community corrections centers are designed to facilitate intensive supervision for a specific group of offenders. These offenders are chronic substance abusers with significant criminal histories. They may be underemployed or unemployed. Finally, community corrections centers are intended for those who would otherwise be incarcerated or have served a term of incarceration and are returning to the community
Intermediate Sanction as a Condition
Assignment to a community corrections center must be ordered as an intermediate sanction condition of probation, parole, or pre-release. At disposition, only a judge can order participation in an intermediate sanction level at a community corrections center. As a method of re-integration, the Massachusetts Parole Board, county sheriff's departments, and the Department of Correction use their respective classification standards to order participation in an Intermediate Sanction Level at a community corrections center.
Pursuant to state law, certain offenders are prohibited from sentence to community corrections programs.
Chapter 211F: Section 3. Sentence to community corrections program; duration; conditions; eligibility.
No offender shall be eligible for sentencing to a community corrections program who is:
(1) convicted of a crime that results in serious bodily harm or death to another person, excluding offenses in which negligence was the primary element,
(2) convicted of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault, or
(3) convicted of a crime involving the use of a firearm.
Community corrections center programming is based on a framework supported by research. Since 1998 the OCC has incorporated this framework for programming into community corrections center plans. The framework places high-priority on the following concepts:
Multidisciplinary, Holistic Approach - Criminal behavior must be addressed on every level and by every component of the criminal justice system. Weekly multi-disciplinary team meetings provide a forum for supervision and treatment components to come together to discuss progress.
Coercive Treatment is Effective - Treatment is not necessarily only successful when sought voluntarily. It can be imposed on those who represent a public safety threat, and yield reasonable success.
Education and Vocational Training Support Positive Outcomes - Participants who become equipped to contribute to society can fulfill their needs and become responsible citizens.
Correctional Interventions Should be Swift, Certain, and Proportionate - Participant noncompliance must result in consequence. Consequences for non-compliance must be predictable and consistently implemented by program staff.
Services Must be Gender Specific - Substance abuse treatment services are designed to meet the needs of both males and females in gender exclusive groups.
Services Must be Culturally Competent - Programming draws on community resources including bilingual tracks based on community needs.
Reinforcement of Positive Behavior Supports Recovery - Ongoing evaluation of participant progress should recognize success through peer recognition, revised treatment planning and other rewards systems
Evidence-Based Practice at Community Corrections Centers
Community Corrections Centers incorporate Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) as articulated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) "Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations" and Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) "Implementing Evidence-based Principles in Community Corrections" through contract provisions for program standards such as:
Assess Actuarial Risk/Need - CJI and NIDA state that assessment is the critical first step in effective treatment. The OCC mandates assessment by a verified instrument such as Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory, Level of Service/Risk, Need, Responsivity, Adult Substance Use Survey or Global Assessment of Individual Needs, among others.
Target Interventions - CJI states that interventions should be targeted for Risk, Need, Responsivity, Dosage and Treatment. NIDA states that services should be tailored to individual needs. The OCC mandates that individual treatment plans are developed for each participant integrating community-based resources when necessary. Behavioral intervention process and periodic review promote systematic alteration of dosage and adjustment of approaches where participants are unresponsive.
Skill Train with Directed Practice - CJI states that program curriculum should employ cognitive behavioral treatment. The OCC mandates this model of treatment.
Coordinate Treatment and Criminal Justice Obligations - Consistent with this NIDA principle the OCC mandates weekly multidisciplinary team meetings in which treatment staff and probation officers discuss participant progress or setbacks.
Duration of Treatment - NIDA states, "…one of the most reliable findings in treatment research is that lasting reductions in criminal activity and drug abuse are related to length of treatment." Therefore, the OCC mandates that participants meet benchmarks for transition to standard criminal justice supervision before the multidisciplinary team informally recommends to the supervising probation officer that the participant is ready to end intensive supervision.
Program standards are closely monitored by OCC field staff through onsite management by Regional Program Managers and Clinical Supervisors including meeting observation, folder audit and monthly operations meetings between program and criminal justice agency staff.
Drug & Alcohol Testing
Drug testing is among the graduated sanctions available at the community corrections center. Participant behavior can be met with increased or decreased testing frequency based on progress in recovery. Community corrections centers provide drug testing for participants at intermediate sanction level III, and IV. The drug testing system is modeled after the American Probation and Parole Association=s Drug Testing Guidelines and Practices for Adult Probation and Parole Agencies. Random drug testing is the primary method of monitoring coerced abstinence. Random methodology is preferred in order to control cost and reduce the opportunity to >beat= the test.
Upon assignment to an intermediate sanction level, participants are assigned a drug testing color. The assigned color corresponds to the participant's risk level. Participants are required to call a toll-free number daily in order to determine what color will be tested that day. When a participant's color is selected on a particular day, the participant is required to report for drug testing. Specimen collection is observed by staff. Urine specimens are screened for illicit drugs via enzymatic immunoassay technique. Federal cut-off levels promulgated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reduce false positives. Typically, specimens are screened for four drugs of abuse, which may be altered based on demand. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry technique is used for confirmation. Breath alcohol testing is conducted via portable Breathalyzer.
As a mandatory component of intermediate sanction level III, IV, community service provides for both punitive and rehabilitative objectives of sentencing. As a time constraint on the liberty of a participant, community service holds the participant accountable for their criminal act. Participants are closely monitored by Community Service Program staff during their work hours. Further, community service fosters a sense of accomplishment in participants through achievement of a specific task as well as teaching practical skills such as painting, landscaping, carpentry, etc.
Service projects are conducted for non-profit and government agencies throughout the Commonwealth. Participants are transported from the community corrections center to local project sites by van. Community service is also widely used at Intermediate Sanction Level II.
Boston Bar Association/Crime and Justice Foundation: The Crisis in Corrections and Sentencing in Massachusetts, 1991
Crime and Justice Institute: Implementing Evidence Based Principles in Community Corrections: The Principles of Effective Intervention, 2004.
Massachusetts Department of Correction: New Court Commitments to Massachusetts County Facilities During 1990, 1992.
Massachusetts Department of Correction: New Court Commitments to Massachusetts State Facilities During 1990, 1992.
Massachusetts Department of Correction: Commitments to Massachusetts House of Correction During 1980, 1980.
Massachusetts Trial Court, Office of Community Corrections: Utilization of Community Corrections Centers, Statistical Report FY 2012, 2013.
National Institute of Drug Abuse: Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment of Criminal Justice Populations, 1999-2009.