Community Corrections: sentence minus bars
A decade ago, justice on Martha's Vineyard consisted of two options. If you broke the law, a judge could send you to jail, or hand you over to the office of probation. If probation was your fate, it was pretty much up to you to stay out of trouble, and the office of probation had limited resources to make sure you did.
With the establishment of the Dukes County Community Corrections Center in November of 2000, there was another option. After nearly nine years of operation, the center has become a tool for rehabilitating offenders and keeping them out of trouble, according to chief probation officer Jack Mezzetti and Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack, who oversee the program.
Community Corrections is a diversion program. It includes intense supervision using electronic monitoring, drug testing, and other methods designed as an alternative to a jail sentence. Established by an act of the legislature, it was intended to relieve overcrowding in the state's corrections system and to deal with criminals in a way that costs less, yet still protects the public.
"It was a perfect program to address our needs," Mr. Mezzetti said.
It is not for all offenders. Under the enabling legislation, people who commit sex crimes, crimes that involve a firearm, or crimes that seriously injure someone, are not eligible.
Instead, community corrections programs target the underlying issues that often lead to crimes. "About 80 percent of the individuals who offend and end up in jail have substance abuse issues in their life," Sheriff McCormack said.
On the level
Capt. David Murphy, the program's manager, oversees the monitoring and testing of offenders at the Community Corrections Center, housed in a building near the Martha's Vineyard Airport terminal.
He explained that there are two levels of close supervision in the program.