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Probation and parole forum.

More than 700 legislators, judicial personnel and correctional administrators met in Tampa, Fla., May 23-26 at a symposium titled "Community Corrections: Saving Dollars and Lives" to discuss strategies and programs that would stimulate effective and innovative criminal justice policies.

The conference was sponsored by the American Probation and Parole Association and the Council of State Governments (CSG), and included participation from more than 20 prominent organizations, such as ACA, the American Bar Association, the Association of Paroling Authorities International and the International Association of Residential and Community Alternatives.

Dan Sprague, CSG's executive director, noted in his opening remarks that many states face severe corrections crises. He called prison crowding "overwhelming" and said new, multi-faceted solutions to our current problems are needed. Sprague stressed the need for a balanced approach that holds offenders accountable while preserving public safety.

Sprague said the conference was intended to "address the comprehensive social environment that contributes to the cycle of poverty, crime and drug abuse." We require, he said, "early interventions, treatment and legitimate alternatives to incarceration" to meet the challenges ahead.

In his address, APPA President Harvey Goldstein underscored the need for dialogue between the various parts of the criminal justice system. He noted that if we continue with our current penal strategy, more than 50 percent of our population eventually will be incarcerated. Legislators, judges and correctional administrators need to meet often and work together to develop problem-solving strategies.

The symposium sought to encourage coalition building and networking and provided attendees with unique educational opportunities and a means of communication with each other. Presenters covered an array of topics and programs, including cost-effective sanctioning and supervision strategies for juveniles; state-of-the-art intervention in family violence; use of specialized drug courts; youth violence and community response; county governments' role in community corrections; victim services, volunteers and community resources; electronic monitoring and home confinement programs; and a community justice approach to crime control.

Throughout the sessions it was clear that community-based correctional alternatives will be a central sanctioning approach as we enter the 21st century. Many of the presenters acknowledged the need to manage offenders differently and at less cost.

In a session on developing partnerships, Carole Carpenter, a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said that to gain political support for community programs correctional administrators need to answer questions regarding safety, cost and program effectiveness. Answering these questions, she said, helps elected officials sell the programs to the public and anticipate criticism. For example, she suggested shifting the issue in the public's mind from being "soft on crime" to being "tough on tax dollars spent ineffectively."

Carpenter also suggested linking state Community Corrections Acts to sentencing guidelines in an effort to increase the justice system's efficiency.

The Hon. Reggie B. Walton, associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, said we need to involve judges in alternatives development and we need their commitment to community approaches. He said, "the system is not working, it's broken and it provides no protection." Walton asked participants to build coalitions with the public sector to find creative, innovative ways of improving the justice system.

In support of forming coalitions, George Kelser of the National Institute of Corrections emphasized the need to "build on a foundation of values." He said this requires "listening carefully to the pronouns used--that is |we,' |us' and |our.' rather than |I' or |me'." Kelser noted that we need to build coalitions not to increase funding but to articulate the need for community corrections.

Todd Clear, a Rutgers University professor, addressed the issue of values and their importance in developing a vision and a direction for community corrections. He noted that in the past decade we have had a social experiment in imprisonment that has seen a four-fold growth in prison populations. Clear stated that this experiment hasn't saved lives or dollars. In fact, he argued, "long-term imprisonment spends money without saving lives."

Clear then discussed the needs of victims and noted society's failure in helping them work through their rage and bitterness and helping them live meaningful lives after loss. It is not enough to just involve victims in the prosecution--we need to work to save their lives, he said.

Clear also pointed out the need to work harder to save our communities. He said, "the life experience of most adolescent males in inner cities is one of punishment," and if the cycle of crime is to be broken we need to restore our communities. We need, he said, "a vision of how we can save lives," and to remember that "it is our values that shape what we do."

The conference theme of "saving dollars and lives" might also have been rendered "saving lives, investing dollars." The participants at this symposium agreed that the knowledge gained, the networks created and the enthusiasms generated made this a memorable event.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Evans, Donald G.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:Inmates and Their Wives: Incarceration and Family Life.
Next Article:Freedom - at what price to corrections?

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