The Seven Commandments of Community Corrections

Commandment 1: Thou shalt never forget who your Client is

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” –Roy Disney

Community corrections professionals work in a complex system with many subsystems, branches, and decision makers. Part of the system refers an offender to us.  Who is our Client (with a capital “C” to mean primary)?  The judge? The district attorney? The victim?  The parole board?  The offender (little “c” client)?  Each of these players is an important stakeholder, but you only have one Client: The Community.     Read More…

Commandment 2: Thou shalt never forget what your Goal is 

"What keeps me going is goals." –Muhammad  Ali

What does the Community want? While value for their tax dollars matters, their request of you is simple:  Enhance public safety.  That is it. Make the Community more safe. What is public safety? In short, there is short-term public safety (i.e., risk containment) and long-term public safety (i.e, risk reduction).  Short term public safety usually trumps long-term attempts to reduce recidivism.

The Goal is to improve the world, but that must start with a non-negotiable of “no new victims.” We will not always be successful. We will make mistakes. Our clients make poor choices, even with the best of programming and treatment. However, if we get the goal wrong, the entire enterprise is missing the mark.       Read More…

Commandment 3: Community corrections is about people

“I think there's just one kind of folks.  Folks.”   -  Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

In the day to day operations of risk assessment, treatment, endless documentation, meetings, violations,  talk about “EBP”, strategic planning, and emails, it can be easy to forget that community corrections is always about one thing: People.

When something bad goes down, it makes headlines (you check them daily for your clients’ names!). However, we rarely get to see the impact we have had on people.  In our renewed effort to raise the bar in community corrections, let us not forget that our clients, employees, victims and community supporters are sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters.  They have computer problems, relationship issues, financial problems, deaths in the family and a crappy golf game.  In other words, they are a lot like us.  Read More… 

Commandment 4: You control processes, not results. Focus on what you control. 

“If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." - W. Edwards Deming

Why is implementing the principles of effective intervention so difficult? In part, because it requires a great deal of expertise, organizational change and resources.  More importantly, you cannot implement principles and outcomes. You implement processes.  Those processes should be based on sound, proven principles.  Processes are performed by people - supported by systems and operational practices.  If you have quality people performing quality processes, the results will follow. Focus on the process!              Read More… 

Commandment 5: Culture matters!  Fight for it.

“Culture drives great results.” –Jack Welch

Culture is a collection of behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular group.   It determines expectations, roles and boundaries. Your community corrections program has a culture.  It is dynamic. Positive leaders make your goal much easier because they create positive peer pressure to adhere to the group norms per the culture. 

Culture is a key ingredient to enabling transformative change in an organization, its missions and goals. A culture of embracing and enabling change comes and goes.  Believe that it matters.  Fight for it. It leads to better results and makes your life easier.      Read More…

 Commandment 6: You have a story to tell.  Tell it.

"But how could you live and have no story to tell?"   — Fyodor Dostoyevsky White Nights

Fortunately, we spend our day with individuals who are characters in a compelling plot of crises, survival and redemption. There should be no shortage of storytelling in community corrections.  We are changing lives but that will go unnoticed unless we weave a tale that instructs and impassions.  A lasting story has a beginning, a middle and an end.  Our treatment process does too. 

You are keeping a journal of the events and characters.  Your documentation matters.  A lot! It is easy to fall into the trap of treating documentation like busy work or a necessary evil. We all have the privilege of working with some very interesting clients on a pilgrimage of self-change. Future treatment providers, judges, probation officers, and case managers need to understand the beginning of the story in order to continue on the journey with this client in a manner that leads out of the forest rather than walking in circles hopelessly lost. Document your journey!     Read More…

 Commandment 7: Thou shalt leverage technology

"Man is a slow, sloppy, and brilliant thinker; computers are fast, accurate, and stupid."  — John Pfeiffer 

People are the greatest asset of community corrections.  They can motivate clients, identify change in emotion, and creatively solve problems - computers cannot do any of these things.  Since computers cannot do what humans can do, people should not be allowed to do what computers can do.  Human energy and expertise is too valuable. 

We have our Client’s attention, EBP is a solid foundation of research, our stakeholders have coalesced around the combination of effective treatment and monitoring.  Let your people invest their energies and creativity in people. Let computers manage data. Empower your people with effective systems and data.   You do not have to be a Ph.D. or a grant recipient in order to contribute mightily to the field. Let’s turn your data into information, and then into knowledge that helps us all advance our field.    Read More…

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