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Executive Session on Community Corrections

Date Published
September 27, 2017

Correctional policy is rapidly changing. As populations of incarcerated individuals continue growing to historic levels, leading policymakers are rethinking their management of individuals passing through the criminal justice system.

To understand how to address this rapidly changing field, NIJ and the Harvard Kennedy School convened an “Executive Session on Community Corrections” to develop new ideas surrounding criminal sanctions and the role of community organizations and agencies in supervising and working with those who have been involved in crime. By engaging leading policymakers, practitioners, and researchers from around the country, this Executive Session aims to develop our best practice and thinking for professionals across the safety and justice spectrum.

From the inaugural meeting of the Session, which was held in Cambridge over three days in September 2013, members have tackled a broad array of themes. Topics have included current opportunities and challenges for reform, collaborative models for community justice, developmentally appropriate responses to justice-involved young adults, the experiences of those under supervision, the role of risk assessments in community corrections, and how to craft a positive role for community corrections in the overall health and well-being of communities. These and other themes will be built upon and expanded in the remaining meetings.

Papers From the Harvard Executive Session on Community Corrections (2013-2016)

Following is the complete list of papers from the Executive Session on Community Corrections, sponsored by NIJ and the Harvard Kennedy School's Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

Title and Date Author Description
From Funnels to Large-Scale Irrigation: Changing the Criminal Justice System Paradigm to Improve Public Health and Safety (pdf, 46 pages)
December 2019
Tom Reed and John Chisholm In this paper, a public defender and a prosecutor, argue that the criminal justice system needs a "paradigm shift." Using their own experiences in Milwaukee, they challenge all criminal justice stakeholders to undertake the collaborative efforts necessary to bring about reforms to the criminal justice system. 
You Get What You Measure: New Performance Indicators Needed to Gauge Progress of Criminal Justice Reform (pdf, 8 pages)
May 2018
Adam Gelb

Jurisdictions across the U.S. are engaging in efforts to reform sentencing and corrections policies, with an aim of shrinking the footprint of the criminal justice system. As these reforms unfold, the makeup of correctional populations is shifting, both for facilities and for probation and parole agencies. 

This calls for the development of new indices that provide an overall picture of the risk profile of people in prison and under community corrections supervision. 

These measures will help policymakers and the public understand whether criminal justice reforms are working as intended, specifically whether prisons increasingly hold people who have been convicted of serious, violent offenses and have extensive criminal histories and whether reentry and related policies and programs are reducing recidivism.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Young Adults, and Community Corrections: Pathways for Innovation (pdf, 16 pages)
April 2018
Molly Baldwin, Anisha Chablani-Medley, Luana Marques, Vincent Schiraldi, Sarah Valentine, and Yotam Zeira In this report , the authors review a collaborative initiative between Roca, a community-based organization in Massachusetts that serves high-risk, justice-involved young men ages 17 to 24, and Community Psychiatry PRIDE, an implementation and dissemination clinical research center affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, which focuses on reducing mental health disparities in racially and ethnically diverse communities. The two entities designed a Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) curriculum specifically for the young adult population Roca serves, which is over represented in community corrections. 
Integrated Health Care and Criminal Justice Data — Viewing the Intersection of Public Safety, Public Health, and Public Policy Through a New Lens: Lessons from Camden, New Jersey (pdf, 22 page)
April 2018
Anne Milgram, Jeffrey Brenner, Dawn Wiest, Virginia Bersch, and Aaron Truchil

In this new report, the authors discuss that when stakeholders in Camden, New Jersey integrated health care and criminal justice data, they found that a small number of Camden residents disproportionately use the health care and criminal justice sectors. Ultimately, integrated data can lead to better individual outcomes, reduced crime and system cycling, and increased efficiency by directing resources to where they will have the most impact.

The authors discovered the following generalizable lessons from their work in Camden, New Jersey:

  1. Data integration provides a new and more holistic lens through which to view and improve individuals’ lives.
  2. The individuals who have an extremely high number of contacts with both hospitals and the criminal justice system exhibit significant variation in their experiences and behaviors.
  3. Only breaking down data silos among agencies that serve vulnerable populations can we begin to address the root causes of behavior and prevent individuals from cycling through multiple systems.
Recidivism Reconsidered: Preserving the Community Justice Mission of Community Corrections (pdf, 17 pages)
March 2018
Jeffrey A. Butts and Vincent Schiraldi

The authors ask us to reconsider using recidivism as the defining measure of community corrections. Measuring the success of community corrections by recidivism, mainly, limits the mission to one of law enforcement, which relieves agencies of their responsibility for other outcomes such as employment, education and housing. Recidivism rates have long been a hallmark of defining success or failure in the criminal justice system, but it has its limitations.

The criminal justice sector is increasingly aware that recidivism is insufficient for measuring the effectiveness of community corrections interventions on individuals or for assessing community well-being. As an outcome indicator, recidivism is subject to at least three significant limitations:

  1. Recidivism is a reflection of both the individual but also the justice system.
  2. Recidivism reflects and compounds the racial disparities of the system.
  3. Recidivism is too simple of a measurement for a complex process of desistance.
Less Is More: How Reducing Probation Populations Can Improve Outcomes (pdf, 18 pages)
August 2017
Michael P. Jacobson, Vincent Schiraldi, Reagan Daly, and Emily Hotez

In this paper, the authors discuss the consequences of the tremendous growth in probation supervision over the past several decades in the United States and argue that the number of people on probation supervision needs to be significantly downsized.

The authors find that probation has often not served as an alternative to incarceration, but rather as a key driver of mass incarceration in the United States. Despite the large numbers of individuals under supervision, probation is the most underfunded of agencies within the criminal justice system. This leaves those under supervision, often an impoverished population, with the responsibility of paying for probation supervision fees, court costs, urinalysis tests, and electronic monitoring fees among a plethora of other fines. These financial obligations have incredibly detrimental implications on the mental and economic state of those under supervision and is argued to be an unjust and ineffective public policy.

Toward An Approach to Community Corrections for the 21st Century: Consensus Document of the Executive Session on Community Corrections (pdf, 10 pages)
July 2018

 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 a focus on individuals who committed crimes to one focused on the victims;
  • 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.
From Evidence-Based Practices to a Comprehensive Intervention Model for High-Risk Young Men: The Story of Roca (pdf, 28 pages)
September 2017
Molly Baldwin and Yotam Zeira This paper focuses on the gap between research- and theory-based practices and a fully functioning intervention model, and how Roca has worked to bridge this gap and achieve positive outcomes.

Part I reviews eight prominent evidence-based practices in community corrections as identified by CJI and NIC. Part II explores how Roca learned of these principles and how it worked internally to integrate them and develop its Intervention Model. Part III explains Roca's Intervention Model and revisits the eight evidence-based practices, explaining how each one is implemented in the Model.

The conclusion draws some lessons from Roca's work with evidence-based practices and suggests that Roca's Model is an alternative to traditional community corrections.
Shackled to Debt: Criminal Justice Financial Obligations and the Barriers to Reentry They Create (pdf, 26 pages)
January 2017
Karin D. Martin, Sandra S. Smith, Wendy Still
Formerly incarcerated people face a considerable number of obstacles to successful re-entry. Their ability to graduate from community supervision is complicated by their low and eroding levels of education and skills, serious mental and physical health conditions that often go untreated, and alcohol and drug addictions which are issues nurtured in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage.

This paper describes trends in the assessment of criminal justice financial obligations (CJFOs); discusses the historical context within which these trends have unfolded; and reflects on the unintended consequences. It also raises concerns on restitution implementation and who benefits from it. Finally, the paper ends with considering alternative models for the effective and fair deployment of fines, fees, and restitution in the criminal justice context.
Building Trust and Legitimacy Within Community Corrections (pdf, 28 pages)
December 2016
Wendy Still, Barbara Broderick, Steve Raphael Over the past three decades, the U.S. incarceration rate has increased to historic highs, while crime rates have dropped significantly. In addition to the 2.3 million people incarcerated in our nation’s jails and prisons, 4 million individuals are on probation or parole at any given time.

The individuals on probation and parole are the largest part of the correctional system. Yet, this aspect of corrections has been largely absent from the national conversation surrounding incarceration rates and criminal justice reform. This paper discusses the need for a new model of community corrections that can improve public safety while recognizing that people on probation and parole are members of the communities in which they live and are supervised.
Future of Youth Justice: A Community-Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model(pdf, 36 pages)
October 2016
Patrick McCarthy, Vincent Schiraldi, Miriam Shark This paper provides recommendations for implementing community-based alternatives to the youth prison model through four domains of action — reduce, reform, replace, and reinvest.

For 170 years, since our first youth correctional institution opened, America’s approach to youth incarceration has been built on the premise that a slightly modified version of the adult correctional model of incarceration, control, coercion, and punishment — with a little bit of programming sprinkled in — would rehabilitate young people. Sometimes the names attempt to camouflage the nature of the facility, but whether they are called “training schools” or “youth centers,” nearly all of these facilities are youth prisons.

The leadership, commitment, and courage that are beginning to be seen in efforts taking place across the country and highlighted within this paper are needed in every state to, at long last, close every youth prison and replace this failed, harmful approach with one that can help youth get back on track.
Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults (pdf, pages)
September 2015
Vincent Schiraldi, Bruce Western and Kendra Bradner This bulletin proposes a new criminal justice paradigm for young men and women ages 18 to 24. Noting that the human brain has been clinically shown to not fully mature prior to the mid-20s, the authors suggest new institutional methods and processes for young adult justice that can meet the realities of life for today’s disadvantaged youth involved in crime and the criminal justice system. The authors envision a system that extends the reach of the juvenile court to reflect a modern understanding of the transition into adulthood. Their primary recommendation is that the age of juvenile court jurisdiction be raised to 21, with additional, gradually diminishing protections for young adults up to age 24 or 25.


  • Molly Baldwin, Founder and CEO, Roca, Inc.
  • Kendra Bradner (Facilitator), Project Coordinator, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Barbara Broderick, Chief Probation Officer, Maricopa County Probation Adult Probation Department
  • Douglas Burris, Chief Probation Officer, United States District Court, The Eastern District of Missouri, Probation
  • John Chisholm, District Attorney, Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office
  • George Gascón, District Attorney, San Francisco District Attorney's Office
  • Adam Gelb, Director, Public Safety Performance Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Susan Herman, Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing, New York City Police Department
  • Michael Jacobson, Director, CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance; Professor, Sociology Department CUNY Graduate Center, City University of New York, Institute for State and Local Governance
  • Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Marc Levin, Policy Director, Right on Crime; Director, Center for Effective Justice, Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder, JustLeadershipUSA
  • Anne Milgram, Vice President of Criminal Justice, Laura and John Arnold Foundation
  • Jason Myers, Sheriff, Marion County (OR) Sheriff's Office
  • Michael Nail, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Community Supervision
  • James Pugel, Chief Deputy Sheriff, King County (WA) Sheriff’s Department
  • Steven Raphael, Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California Berkeley
  • Nancy Rodriguez, Director, National Institute of Justice
  • Vincent N. Schiraldi, Senior Advisor, New York City Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice
  • Sandra Susan Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California Berkeley
  • Amy Solomon, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General and Co-Chair, Federal Interagency Reentry Council Staff Working Group, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice
  • Wendy S. Still, Chief Adult Probation Officer (retired), San Francisco Adult Probation Department
  • John Tilley, State Representative, Kentucky Legislature
  • Steven W. Tompkins, Sheriff, Suffolk County (MA) Sheriff's Department
  • Harold Dean Trulear, Director, Healing Communities; Associate Professor of Applied Theology, Howard University School of Divinity
  • Vesla Weaver, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Political Science, Yale University, Institution for Social and Policy Studies
  • Bruce Western, Faculty Chair, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School; Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy; Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice
  • John Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
  • Ana Yàñez-Correa, Executive Director, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Date Published: September 27, 2017