We were struck by the honesty, humility, and humor of the participants in this conversation. Confined together for two days, they exhibited more than a little courage in exploring their predicaments and what the future might have in store. Bottom-line consensus eluded us, but simple truths were evident to all:
If I had to summarize the last 24 hours, I would say that we all agree that we're suffering from an identity crisis, a resource crisis, and a credibility crisis. But it seems to me that we can't reinvent community corrections until we clarify our objectives--crystal-clear clarify our objectives. I don't think those objectives would be credible unless they're supported by the public. And I don't think our resources will come until we've settled on credible objectives supported by the public.
The "modified muddle" may prove right, in the end: community corrections cannot avoid responsibility for enforcing court orders (though it has more opportunity than it uses to specify the ends and means of supervision); community corrections cannot secure the resources required for any of its possible futures (except the "muddle") unless it finds ways to advance public safety; but advancing public safety will require broader engagements than are typical of traditional, offender-centered probation and parole.
It is not for us to say which of the possible futures is either the most desirable or the most likely. That is for the professionals in the community corrections field--whose views we think were fairly represented at this extraordinary meeting. But Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson's opening remarks seem to us to provide a true compass for surveying the possibilities, and we repeat them here:
[H]ow can we have a conversation about public safety in this country and not talk about the … 3.9 million people on probation and parole. That's about three times the number of people behind bars.
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