6: Managing Offenders

Managing offenders is a complicated problem, requiring the government to consider overlapping goals of punishment, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation in developing effective corrections policy. The diverse population of offenders, and problems like substance abuse and mental health disorders that often accompany offending, provide further challenges.

OJP helps state and local agencies manage their offender populations in ways that best protect public safety. OJP's largest funding stream for corrections helps states build prisons to increase incarceration of violent offenders. At the same time, OJP supports programs to break the cycle of offending by supporting drug treatment programs and programs to help prisoners who have completed their sentences reenter society as law-abiding citizens.


Each year, nearly 500,000 individuals leave state prison and return to communities across the country. For many of these offenders, the process of reintegration is difficult - they may lack family support, have difficulty finding jobs, and associate with former peers who support the resumption of criminal habits, as well as abuse drugs or alcohol. Such circumstances often contribute to an offender's return to criminal behavior and subsequent recidivism.

In FY 1999, OJP took several steps to develop a seamless system of offender accountability, supervision, and support that begins during incarceration and continues as the offender leaves prison and reenters the community. Several OJP bureaus and offices, as well as other Justice Department components, are participating in a Reentry Working Group to improve the system for ex-offenders returning to the community, to help manage the risks to the community posed by released prisoners, and to reduce recidivism among paroled offenders.

OJP is supporting the establishment of reentry courts, in which judges are actively involved in monitoring offenders as they return to the community. Reentry courts are modeled on other problem-solving courts, such as drug courts. Reentry courts are designed to promote positive behavior by providing services to help offenders reconnect with their families and the community, including employment, counseling, education, health, mental health, and other essential services. At the same time, reentry court judges would be able to use their judicial authority to apply graduated sanctions, using the power to punish to keep individuals on the right track.

In September 1999, OJP issued a call for concept papers from jurisdictions interested in establishing reentry courts. OJP selected nine reentry court pilot sites, and is providing technical assistance and opportunities for information sharing through a series of reentry court conferences.

In addition to reentry courts, OJP is also exploring a variety of other reentry programs. In May and September 1999, NIJ and OJP's Corrections Program Office convened meetings of state corrections administrators to explore how the corrections system, law enforcement, and the community can work together more closely to prepare for and manage the reentry process. The Executive Office for Weed and Seed, in conjunctions with Nevada state officials, is supporting a reentry demonstration project at the Weed and Seed site in Las Vegas.

Reentry issues are especially important when dealing with the juvenile justice system, in which rehabilitation is an essential goal. OJJDP supports an intensive aftercare program for high-risk juvenile offenders leaving secure residential facilities and a targeted reintegration program in coordination with Boys & Girls Clubs. OJP is also working closely with the Labor Department on youthful offender demonstration projects, which deliver educational, training, and employment opportunities for at-risk youth.


In the early 1990's Boston, Massachusetts was experiencing heightened gang violence, a rise in homicide victims under the age of 17, public alarm, increasingly bold behavior of gang members in courthouses, and criticism by minority community leaders and judges of police tactics. Probation officers worked independently of police, and curfews were not commonly imposed by the court and were difficult to enforce. In response to those problems, a few probation officers met informally with a few police officers to develop the Operation Night Light model as a more effective way of deterring juvenile violence.

Operation Night Light pairs one probation officer with two police officers to make surprise visits to the homes, schools, and worksites of high-risk youth probationers during the high crime hours of 7 p.m. to midnight, rather than during regular working hours, which was previously the norm. The program also gives all Boston police officers information on who is on probation and what conditions they are required to obey, allowing officers on patrol to act as additional eyes and ears for probation around the clock. In doing so, officers discovered that many offenders under supervision in the community were violating the terms of their probation by breaking court-imposed curfews and associating with other known offenders.

Officials in Boston found that Operation Night Light's efforts - joint patrols, curfew checks, and information sharing - have had a significant impact on gang members who are on probation because they have begun to take conditions of supervision much more seriously. Between 1994 and 1996, the number of probationers arrested on new charges declined 9.2 percent, compared with a statewide increase of 14 percent during the same period.

In FY 1999, OJP's Corrections Program Office and the Boston Police Department held a series of four regional workshops on law enforcement-corrections partnerships to share information on the successful program in Boston, as well as other partnerships being tried across the country. In March 1999, NIJ published Police-Corrections Partnerships, which describes 14 such partnerships between police and corrections agencies. These include enhanced supervision partnerships like Operation Night Light, as well as other programs such as joint fugitive apprehension teams and prison anti-gang programs.


A major goal of the 1994 Crime Act was to effectively address serious and violent crime by promoting incarceration of the most dangerous offenders. OJP's Corrections Program Office has now provided more than $1.8 billion to states through the Violent Offender Incarceration/Truth-in-Sentencing (VOI/TIS) programs. The funds can be used to build or expand prisons or jails to house violent offenders and to construct or enhance correctional facilities for nonviolent offenders in order to free up bedspace for violent offenders. In FY 1999, a total of more than $484 million was awarded to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories, and five Indian tribes to help incarcerate more violent offenders, often for longer periods of time.

VOI/TIS grants are awarded on a formula basis to states and territories that demonstrate eligibility for different funding levels through corrections practices and policies. Every state receives VOI Tier 1 funding. To be eligible for VOI Tier 2 and Tier 3 funding, states must document certain increases in the percentage of arrestees sentenced to prison, time served, or percentage of sentence served. States that have implemented or will implement Truth-in-Sentencing policies requiring violent offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentence are eligible for TIS grants.

A report published by BJS in August 1999 documents the rise in prison populations during the 1990s. Prisoners in 1998 reports that:


According to BJS, there are an estimated 270,000 convicted sex offenders under the care, custody, or control of corrections agencies on an average day in the United States. Almost 60 percent of them are under some form of correctional supervision in the community -- probation or parole. To help communities more effectively deal with these offenders, OJP established the Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM). CSOM is a joint effort of OJP, the National Institute of Corrections, and the State Justice Institute, and is administered by the Center for Effective Public Policy and the American Probation and Parole Association.

In FY 1999, the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) awarded 28 grants totaling about $3 million under the Comprehensive Approaches to Sex Offender Management Grant Program. The funds assist probation and parole officers and promote collaboration among criminal justice personnel who work directly with released sex offenders.

As part of its National Criminal History Improvement Program, BJS is supporting the development of a National Sex Offender Registry. Each state received NCHIP funds in FY 1999 to implement state registries and link to the national registry maintained by the FBI. In addition, states must establish sex offender registries to receive full funding under BJA's Byrne formula grant program. States must use at least five percent of Byrne funds to improve criminal records, including sex offender registration.


BJA's State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) provides payments to states and localities for part of the cost of incarcerating undocumented aliens. States and localities with correctional facilities that incarcerate aliens accused or convicted of crimes are eligible to apply for funds. In FY 1999, BJA awarded more than $572 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 3 territories, and 280 local governments. Since the program's creation in the 1994 Crime Act, BJA has provided more than $2 billion to state and local governments.

In FY 1999, Congress required OJP to make SCAAP awards prior to August 31, or to make partial payments based on FY 1998 allocations. BJA accelerated the payment schedule to make awards in July 1999, meeting the Congressional deadline.


By enhancing what we know about characteristics of offenders and how various sentencing and corrections options affect criminal behavior, we can better build a corrections system that meets the ultimate goal of ensuring community safety.

Because sentencing and corrections policies have such major consequences for the quality of justice in this country and the safety of its citizens, NIJ and the Corrections Program Office initiated a series of Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections in FY 1999. The series, which is continuing through 2000, is bringing together practitioners and scholars to think about sentencing policies and the interdependence of different parts of the corrections system. In September 1999, NIJ released four papers resulting from the executive sessions:

The majority of offenders are supervised in the community. In August 1999, BJS published Probation and Parole in the United States, 1998, which provides information on offenders under community supervision. Probationers are criminal offenders sentenced to a period of correctional supervision in the community. Parole is a period of conditional supervision following a prison term. The report found that:

Back to OJP FY 99 Annual Report