Challenges of Leading Groups in Criminal Justice

8 August 2016

Challenges of Leading Groups in Criminal Justice Leaders of criminal justice organizations have complex challenges that require creative and innovative approaches and solutions. Future leaders in corrections will need to consider how to respond to and incorporate the benefits of various trends. Corrections leaders will deal with direct operational issues, such as staffing shortages and a shift toward privatization. They will need to adjust to the changes in sentencing laws. It is likely that the changes in the use of mandatory sentencing laws and the use of diversion programs will present challenges.

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Recidivism will continue to be a key measure of the effectiveness of corrections initiatives. Privatization Years ago Texas was running out of money to support the prison system’s constant drain on the budget. The legislators decided to privatize some of the prisons. Other states as well had private security companies running several prisons. As initiatives such as “the war on drugs”, “getting tough on crime,” and “three strikes out” began to grow, there was even a greater demand for privately run prisons because the government run facilities were overpopulated.

Privately run prisons had little oversight by the state government. Employee turnover rates were bad enough in the government run prisons, and became even worse in the private prisons. Private prisons had a turnover rate of 53%, whereas publicly run prisons had a 16% turnover. The environment in the privately run prisons was unstable. Because of staffing shortages and poor regulations in private prisons, escapes were common. Perimeters and posts were left unprotected by guards. The environment became increasingly dangerous as inmate-on-staff and inmate-on-inmate assaults rose by 50% in the private prisons.

(Brickner & Diaz, 2011) According to Brickner and Diaz, “Prison privatization is gaining traction in some states because officials and the public are concerned about the rising cost of incarceration. ” (2011, np. ). The public can expect more private run prisons as state funds continue to decline. Private security companies have shown that they can operate a prison as a lower cost than the government can, but offender rehabilitation initiatives may suffer as a result of privatization. Taylor and Cooper indicate that, “U. S. critics argue that private firms ultimately privilege profit over the interests of the public, the prisoners and their rehabilitation. ” (2008, p. 8). The future is almost certain to find more privately run prisons. The challenge for leaders will be to improve the operation of both public and private prisons so organizational objectives of the criminal justice system as a whole can be supported. Future initiatives will require an open dialog of communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Staffing Shortages Staffing shortages in the corrections system and criminal justice system is a problem that has already started to become a major challenge.

As the future looms and the ability to maintain a safe and effective number of staff in prisons becomes more difficult, the importance of addressing the problem and finding solutions to it becomes vital to the success of the corrections system. Part of the difficulty in staffing currently stems from the budget cuts that corrections facilities are undergoing and are facing. Without acquiring the funding to keep the staffing level at optimal numbers, prisons are forced to have higher than desired inmate to staff ratios. Additionally, this problem even affects law enforcement and the court systems.

“Due to the prisons having lower staffing and less of a budget, it is frequent for offenders to be released to balance out the problem, even if they are not reformed” (R. Knorr, personal communication, August 30, 2013). This leads to offenders committing new crimes for the police and courts to deal with. Then the offenders are returned to prison. The challenge that faces the leaders in the corrections systems is that budget cuts and funding are not likely to change in the future, and in fact, are probably going to continue to decrease.

As a result, leaders will have to develop plans that will support safe and effective staffing levels within the permitted budget. One popular opinion is that reducing the inmate population will allow prisons to be operated safely and efficiently without increasing staffing. Reducing the inmate population can be done through programs such as community corrections, reduced sentencing terms, or alternative sentencing. Staffing challenges must be addressed by future leaders. Issues such job satisfaction, working conditions, and pay will need to be addressed to improve the high turnover in corrections.

Strategies to reduce turnover will help with control costs because retention will alleviate some of the training costs. Recidivism Each day thousands of individuals come in contact with law enforcement and are arrested for breaking the laws of society. During their incarceration, these rule breakers or offenders as they are called can choose while incarcerated to change their behaviors to become productive citizens or to maintain their current lifestyle and return to a life of crime.

Offenders can go through specialized programming to help and aid them in changing their thought processes about crimes and issues that may have been involved in their conviction (Smith, 2013). Mostly, the completion of these programs offers the offenders a reduction in the sentence and will allow them an early release. Criminologists have been focused on researching ways to reducing recidivism and reducing the length of incarceration, if the reduction would benefit society.

Current trends include offering programs offenders can participate in while incarcerated. The completion of these programs offers the offenders a reduction in the sentence and will allow them an early release. These programs can range from residential therapeutic community where offenders live and work toward change 24 hours a day or AA/NA programs where the offenders sit in group sessions with volunteers. The burden of changing the illegal thoughts and ways of offenders must be placed on the offenders themselves and not society through programming options.

When an automatic sentence reduction is attached to the completion of the programs, many times offenders just go through the motions for the reduction of their time and never attempt to change their criminal ways of thinking. Despite huge investments made on rehabilitation more than 40% of offenders who are released from prison commit crimes within three years of their release and wind up back in prison (Pearlstein, 2011). Almost half of the offenders released in 2011 returned to a life inside a correctional facility somewhere in the United States.

Of these offenders, 42% were released after completing a program that offered a reduction in sentence as an incentive (Smith, 2013). The leaders in corrections must analyze the statistics of recidivism and hold offenders accountable for their individual outcomes. Leaders must also examine programs that have shown promise in reducing recidivism. Researchers have suggested that instead of putting an offender back in prison for a minor parole violation, the severity of the violation should be considered, and alternative penalties should be imposed.

Sanctions that can be applied quickly and with a level of certainty are likely to influence the offender to improve their behavior more effectively than the more distant threat of going back to prison. A progressive sanction policy can provide the structure that will help with the administration process and can alleviate concerns that might be raised in regard to the fair and impartial use of the sanctions. Measures such as requiring the use electronic monitoring devices, increasing the frequency of drug or alcohol testing, or modifying other conditions of probation or parole can reduce recidivism (Lawrence, 2013).

Mandatory Sentencing Leaders in the criminal justice system will need to continue to evaluate the effectiveness of mandatory sentencing laws. Mandatory sentencing eliminates the need for a costly pre-sentencing report, allows a more efficient judicial procedure, and eliminates ethical challenges associated with judicial discretion (Bryjak & Barkan, 2010). With mandatory sentencing, courts are forced to deliver the same punishment to all individuals, regardless of wealth, race, political affiliation, etc. The courts are no longer given the chance to become corrupt and must adhere to the letter of the law (Scheb, 2008).

The negative aspects of mandatory sentencing laws may outweigh any benefit. Mandatory sentencing laws have a disparate impact on minority groups, contribute to prison overcrowding, and have not been proven to reduce crime rates. Leaders are likely to see reforms made to mandatory sentencing laws. Future trends will include eliminating mandatory sentencing in favor of other sentencing options. Offenders, who commit an offense that under current laws would be sentenced to life in prison, may be sentenced with a focus on rehabilitation rather than retribution.

Corrections leaders will have challenges to implement additional treatment plans to accommodate the growing focus on rehabilitation. A key goal in corrections will be to help the offender get back into the community and become a contributing member of society. Future Diversion Opportunities Criminal justice professionals have come to realize that reforms are needed in corrections. Even those who have little faith in the effectiveness of rehabilitation support this approach over purely punitive measures (Adler, Mueller, & Laufer, 2009).

One trend that has been growing in the criminal justice field is the use of diversion programs for non-violent offenders. There has been a renewed effort in at least 27 states to reallocate funds typically spent on incarceration to diversion programs. Results indicate that such efforts can reduce recidivism, reduce the prison population, increase public safety, and increase offender accountability (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2013). Diversion programs are less expensive overall than incarceration and are considered to be a more effective method for an individual’s rehabilitation.

Pretrial intervention programs have been effective option for juvenile offenders or adult offenders with substance abuse or mental health issues. Leaders have to determine what criteria should be used to identify offenders who are eligible to participate in diversion programs and what measures need to be put in place to ensure that the intended outcomes are achieved. Leaders can influence successful outcomes by committing resources to conducting pre-trial assessments and implementing the treatment plans that are recommended as a result.

The pre-trial assessment should assess the risk of an offender, identify the root-causes of the offender’s behavior, and provide recommendations for the appropriate intervention. Mental health issues are often overshadowed by substance abuse or treatment is based on an incomplete diagnosis. For example, an offender that should be treated for a dual diagnosis often receives services that address just one issue (Durcan & Wilson, 2009). Conclusion Leaders in corrections will be faced with many challenges.

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