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An invaluable opportunity for corrections.

In the 1960s, the Peace Corps program led many Americans to commit to public service aimed at improving the infrastructure of developing or impoverished countries. In 1993, President Clinton's proposed National Service plan aims to rekindle that theme by providing another window of opportunity for Americans--young and old--to contribute to the betterment of our own nation.

The plan offers participants educational awards that can be used for loan forgiveness or loan payments to defray or offset post-secondary educational debts and costs. The proposed legislation includes four priorities: education, the environment, human needs and public safety.

Under the initiative, not-for-profit organizations such as ACA, state and local governments, and other entities may contribute by helping to develop plans on public safety priorities and strategies. As we understand the current proposal, programs in every priority area will focus on meeting unmet needs, improving current programs that may be underserved or underused, and providing participants with skills--without displacing existing workers or duplicating efforts. Seldom has corrections been presented with an invitation to be involved on the ground floor of such an important project.

All of us generally agree that preserving public safety is critical to achieving corrections' mission. Where we usually part ways for ideological or philosophical reasons is in deciding how to accomplish this goal.

Regardless of where you stand on the types of strategies you believe are appropriate to meet corrections' needs, the National Service Act provides opportunities for our fellow citizens to make valuable contributions, particularly in communities and agencies coping with budget cutbacks, poverty or strained resources.

As corrections leaders, we are being called on to bring our suggestions forward regarding ways a professional corps of National Service participants can best be used to enhance public safety. This means more than preparing a wish list or succumbing to more "magic bullet" theories. National Service is a viable and credible option for us to consider.

We believe National Service assignments could benefit corrections and society as a whole by supplementing efforts aimed at providing offenders with basic literacy, vocational or life skills training. We all recognize the pervasiveness of these problems in juvenile and adult corrections. Further, the potential exists for service assignments in the following areas:

* providing training for correctional

personnel at academies

particularly in localities that

are financially strained, suffering

cutbacks or have insufficient

existing programs);

* operating monitoring/testing

equipment used for offenders receiving

intermediate sanctions

such as house arrest or those on

probation or parole;

* conducting research on correctional

issues; and

* supporting challenge programs

for at-risk youths and juvenile


If you have ideas or suggestions on ways National Service can support, supplement and benefit corrections, the time to act is now, while the conceptual framework is still being formed and before the plan is put in place. Let us hear what you think and we'll be sure to let the current administration and Congress know of your suggestions.
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Author:Gondles, James A., Jr.
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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