Community corrections is a combination of three inter-related activities: supervision, programming, and community involvement.
Supervision is the direct monitoring of and communication with offenders. It is carried out by CSC community staff, known as parole officers, or by trained volunteers, depending on the offender involved.
All offenders on conditional release are supervised whether they live in the city or in remote parts of the country. The degree of supervision depends on the individual. Offenders who are considered "high risk" will require closer monitoring; those who are considered "low risk" require less monitoring. Staff rely on an array of information sources, such as police, family members and program staff, to monitor offenders. By being aware of the offender's situation, staff can help ensure that he or she stays on track. They can take action when the offender breaks rules or help solve problems that could lead to a re-offence.
Research shows that supervision alone does not help offenders change. Supervision combined with good programming does work. Each offender on community release is expected to participate in programs tailored to his or her needs. Some programs help offenders cope with daily living, relationships and emotions. Other programs upgrade educational skills or deal with specific issues such as sexual offences, and alcohol or drug abuse. Programs in the community build on the gains that the offender has already made by taking part in prison programs.
Community involvement is essential to both supervision and programming. CSC staff rely on community contacts for important information on offenders that help the supervision process. People in the community may learn, for example, that the offender has violated conditions or is in an emotional crisis, and relay this information to CSC.
Agencies and individuals in the community also deliver programs or reinforce program activities. They act as counsellors, role models, and support networks. In addition, community involvement means the community is willing to accept those offenders who reform themselves.
Offenders' success in starting fresh depends partly on their own efforts and partly on the opportunities provided by the community at large.