Toward An Approach to Community Corrections for the 21st Century: Consensus Document of the Executive Session on Community Corrections

July 20, 2017

The Executive Session on Community Corrections has released an unprecedented consensus document entitled Toward An Approach to Community Corrections for the 21st Century: Consensus Document of the Executive Session on Community Corrections. This is the first time in the thirty-plus year history of the PCJ Executive Sessions that members – leading academics and practitioners – of an Executive Session have published a consensus document. The Executive Session model is designed to foster productive disagreement and challenges to the field, not as a consensus process. However, the members of the present Executive Session realized that there was agreement among the group on a number of key paradigm shifts that are necessary to move the field forward.

In the paper, Executive Session members first lay out a series of principles that form the mission of community corrections – First, to promote the well-being and safety of communities; Second, to use the capacity to arrest, discipline, and incarcerate parsimoniously; Third, to recognize the worth of justice-involved individuals; and Fourth, to promote the rule of law, respecting the human dignity of people under supervision and treating them as citizens in a democratic society.

In order to fulfill that mission, the Executive Session members propose thirteen necessary paradigm shifts. The field of community corrections, they argue, must move:

  • From punishing failure to promoting success;
  • From mass supervision to focused supervision;
  • From time-based to goal-based;
  • From deficit-based to strengths-based;
  • From delayed/arbitrary to swift/certain;
  • From offender-focused to victim-centered;
  • From individual-focused to family-inclusive;
  • From isolated to integrated;
  • From fortress to community-based;
  • From low-profile to high-profile;
  • From caseload-driven funding to performance-based funding;
  • From “gut-based” to evidence-based;
  • From low-tech to high-tech.

Download the report (PDF)

News coverage and commentary:
The Hill: “It’s time to refocus the punishment paradigm.” Adam Gelb and Barbara Broderick
San Francisco Chronicle: “To be more just, communities must rethink parole and probation.” George Gascon and Glenn Martin
The Crime Report: “Want to Shrink Our Prisons? Fix Probation and Parole.” Bruce Western and Vincent Schiraldi

Praise for the consensus document:

“This consensus document, from leading practitioners and researchers in community corrections, lays out a powerful new paradigm for the field. State- and county-level justice agencies hold enormous power for positive change; through realigning their priorities according to the principles in this document, they can provide more justice and more safety for our communities.” – Karol V. Mason, former Assistant Attorney General; incoming President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

“What is laid out in this report is an antidote to the past decades-long failed, big government, top down approach in our two-tiered criminal justice system, which has created persistent barriers to opportunity for the least advantaged.  By employing evidence-based practices that have worked in dozens of states we can enhance public safety, reduce crime rates, reduce incarceration rates, reduce recidivism, keep families together, and reinvigorate our communities.” – Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Koch Industries

Executive Session members weigh in on the consensus document:

“Despite the current rhetoric coming from Washington, momentum for criminal justice reform remains strong.  This consensus paper – a first for a Harvard Executive Session paper - points to fundamental agreement about key values and strategies needed to guide community corrections moving forward.  This document is both a call to action and a roadmap for reform” – Amy Solomon, former Former Director of Policy, Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs; incoming Vice President of Criminal Justice Policy at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation

 “In probation, we want our clients to turn away from crime and succeed in the community. How do we accomplish that? The focus needs to be on meaningful behavior change, with less emphasis on detecting and punishing minor rule violations. By implementing evidence-based practices to motivate, guide, and reinforce positive behavior, we help individuals make the changes necessary to succeed. This is a proven approach in crime reduction and one powerful example of how research is guiding effective policy and practice in community corrections. Let's continue to learn and do more to advance public safety and justice in our communities. This consensus document guides us in that direction.” – Barbara Broderick, Chief Probation Officer, Maricopa County (AZ) Adult Probation Department

“The guiding principles set forth in this report are consistent with what we should strive for in a free and open society.  We support the focus on communities, enhancing public safety, respect for the rule of law, making our justice system more fair and just, and providing real opportunities for all individuals, including those who have been incarcerated.” – Marc Levin, Policy Director, Right on Crime;
Director, Center for Effective Justice, Texas Public Policy Foundation

“This consensus paper represents a shared vision to make our US criminal justice system smaller, fairer, and more humane. JustLeadershipUSA is dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030, and in order to be successful, the country must redefine the role of community corrections. This requires a wholesale paradigm shift in our approach to justice - one that recognizes the humanity and strengths of people - which is exactly what is recommended in this paper. It was a privilege to serve as a member of the Executive Session on Community Corrections, and I am proud that we were able to reach consensus on the importance of the need to redefine justice for over 5.6 million Americans under community correction supervision.” – Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder, JustLeadershipUSA

“In today’s times when significant differences in political attitudes exist on criminal justice, social, health, immigration and other issues, this paper provides a roadmap on how to build a bridge of probation, law enforcement, educators, prosecutors, parole, corrections, victims, advocates, community, along with individuals with lived experience to move from a society focused on punishment and mass incarceration to one based on victim restoration and rehabilitation which will break the chains of intergenerational incarceration and strengthen our communities and nation.” – Wendy Still, Chief Probation Officer, Alameda County (CA)

 “A strong array of prison alternatives is the cornerstone of a corrections system that puts the right people behind bars and steers appropriate offenders to options that cost much less and can be much more effective at reducing recidivism. This paper charts a clear and compelling path for how community corrections can fulfill its vital role in achieving the twin goals of crime control and justice.” – Adam Gelb, Director, Public Safety Performance Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts

“In this time of extreme partisanship in America, the ideas and consensus reflected in this paper offer a roadmap to change – and the hopefulness that we can take this journey collectively.  The fact that our members, so different in experience and perspectives, came to this common vision cannot be overstated.

America’s justice system has been a failure, both socially and economically.  We need to take significant, united and immediate action to transform the ways that we prevent and respond to crime – and changing the ways we support justice-involved individuals in our community will be critical to that transformation.  I was honored to be a part of the Executive Session and look forward to taking these next steps, together.” – George Gascón, District Attorney, City and County of San Francisco

“Probation and parole have gotten short shrift in discussions on how to reduce mass incarceration for too long, even though they are significant contributors to imprisonment. To realistically eliminate mass incarceration, we need to shrink the footprint of "mass supervision," make it more effective, and reform it so it hews more toward the principles of a democratic society.” – Vincent Schiraldi, PCJ Senior Research Fellow

“This unique consensus report indicates the broad support for criminal justice reform among the country’s leading policymakers and practitioners. The Executive Session on Community Corrections brought together criminal justice leaders from across the country. They varied in their views and experience but all agreed on the need for new policies that would shrink the footprint of justice system, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and find fair and constructive responses to crime.” – Bruce Western, PCJ Faculty Chair

Photo: Twitter via Ana Yáñez-Correa
Members of the Executive Session on Community Corrections gather following their final meeting.

Bottom row, left to right:
Marc Levin, Barbara Broderick, Susan Herman, Molly Baldwin, Wendy Still, Sandra Susan Smith, Sharon Keller, Glenn Martin, Bruce Western, Vesla Weaver, Steven Tompkins.

Top row, left to right:
Adam Gelb, Howard Spivak, Amy Solomon, Kendra Bradner, Steven Raphael, Ana Yáñez-Correa, Vincent Schiraldi, Doug Burris

Executive Session Members not depicted:
John Chisholm, George Gascón, Michael Jacobson, Anne Milgram, Jason Myers, Michael Nail, James Pugel, Nancy Rodriguez, John Tilley, Harold Dean Trulear, and John Wetzel.

1 This paper reflects the opinions of most members of the Executive Session Committee on Community Corrections. Honorable Sharon Keller felt prohibited by the Canon of Judicial Ethics from voicing a consensual position one way or the other on this document.