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Community corrections is a term used to describe community-based programs or sentencing options for non-violent criminal offenders. These programs are a sentencing option and should not be confused with probation. An offender may be sentenced to a term for community service and then also be required to complete a length of time on probation. Many countries around the world use community corrections sentencing options, as do both the federal and state court systems in the US. The exact nature of the programs or supervision offered through a community corrections program as well as the criteria for acceptance into the programs will vary by jurisdiction.
When a defendant is convicted of a crime and sentenced to incarceration for more than a few days, he or she is generally sentenced to serve the time in a prison. The corrections program often offers a local facility to house defendants who have been determined to be non-violent, low-risk offenders and who have been sentenced to a relatively short length of incarceration. These facilities also often house transitional programs where an inmate can make the transition from prison back to society with the support and guidance of the community corrections staff. As part of the transitional program, an inmate may spend nights and weekends at the facility but be allowed to leave during the day to work or to seek employment.
Another facet of many community corrections programs are lower-level monitoring of offenders, such as electronic monitoring, house arrest, or day reporting. Electronic or GPS monitoring requires the offender to wear an ankle bracelet throughout the length of his or her sentence, which allows the staff to monitor the offender's whereabouts at all times. This option is popular in domestic violence cases as it also allows the corrections staff to assure that the offender does not go near the victim. House arrest requires the offender to be at home at all times unless he has received prior permission from the community corrections staff to leave for work, court, or another authorized reason. Day reporting, which requires the offender to report in to the center in person or by telephone on a daily basis, is considered the least restrictive and is usually reserved for those convicted of minor crimes and who have no serious criminal history.