Glossary of Terms

As you learn more about the field of Corrections or apply for positions, you may encounter unfamiliar industry-specific words or phrases. To assist you, we have created this online glossary of common Corrections terms.

Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.



An offender on parole, community supervision, electronic monitoring (either pre or post adjudication), or ordered by a judicial authority to other alternatives of secure incarceration and who fails to report to his/her probation or parole officer, removes the electronic monitoring device, or otherwise violates the condition of their release, and cannot be located for the purpose of establishing or continuing supervision.


A person with an overpowering physical and/or psychological need to continue taking a particular substance or drug.


The juvenile court equivalent of a trial in criminal court or the process of rendering a judicial decision regarding the truth of the facts alleged in a petition.

Aftercare Services

Longer term, outpatient support after the intensive phase of substance abuse and/or mental health treatment is concluded. Services can include case management; individual, group or family counseling; monitoring; alcohol and drug testing. In a juvenile justice setting, aftercare is often considered the time after release from an institution or placement.

Aggravating Factors

Elements presented in a crime that the judge or jury may take into account at the time of sentencing, which may lead to a harsher sentence.

Anger Management

A treatment program that seeks to provide individuals with new coping skills as an alternative to acting out violently.


A dispute resolution process that brings opposing parties together with a neutral third party (an arbitrator) who has the skills to listen objectively to evidence presented by both sides regarding a conflict, to ask probing and relevant questions of each side, and to arrive at an equitable solution to the dispute.


The appearance of a defendant before a court in order that the court may inform the defendant of the charge(s) against him/her and he/she may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.


The taking of a person into custody by authority of law for the purpose of charging him or her with a criminal offense, proceeding with alleged probation or parole violations or initiating juvenile proceedings.

At-risk youths

Young people who are extremely vulnerable to the negative consequences of school failure, violence, family dysfunction, substance abuse, delinquency and early sexuality.

Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)

An AED is a portable defibrillator that can be used by persons without medical training who are responding to a cardiac emergency.

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Amount of money or security determined by a judicial officer to be posted with the court by the defendant to guarantee his/her appearance in court and allow a conditional release from pre-trial incarceration, or pending an appeal of a finding of a judge or jury.

Synonyms: Bond

Basic training

A specified period of training that instills the organizational culture and develops skills for job performance in newly hired jail/corrections officers during their first year of employment. The length and requirements of training vary by state and agency.

Bench trial

A trial conducted without a jury, in which the judge serves as sole fact-finder and decision-maker.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

The standard of proof necessary to find a defendant guilty in a criminal trial.

Boot camp

A rigorous residential program operated by a prison or jail that involves rigorous physical training and discipline, which may also include education, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and supervision for a fairly short duration (generally 6 months or less).

Burden of proof

In criminal cases, the prosecutor (government) has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. This burden differs under certain circumstances. In criminal prosecution, the prosecuting attorney must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) consists of mouth-to-mouth respiration and chest compression intended to circulate to blood and oxygen to vital organs such as the brain and heart. CPR can keep a person alive until more advanced procedures (such as defibrillation - an electric shock to the chest) can treat the cardiac arrest. CPR started by a trained bystander doubles the likelihood of survival for victims of cardiac arrest.

Case file

A file that contains standardized documents and information relating to specific actions and events related to a case.


The number of cases assigned to and handled by an officer (e.g., judicial officer, pretrial officer, probation officer, parole officer, jail or prison case manager, etc.).


The offices of a judge and his or her staff.


A formal allegation that a specific individual(s) has committed a specific offense.

Chief Judge

The judge who has primary responsibility for the administration of a court system.

Child abuse

As defined by state law, any physical, emotional or sexual trauma to a child for which no reasonable explanation, such as an accident, can be found.

Chronic offenders

Individuals who commit a disproportionate number of serious crime and delinquency and who persist in their criminality.


A written order issued by a law enforcement officer directing an alleged offender to appear in a specific court at a specific time in order to answer to a criminal charge.

Civilian staff

Staff within the facility who have no law enforcement authority and provide services to the jails such as medical services, food services, programs, maintenance, and substance abuse/mental health counseling.


An objective process conducted upon entry into jail or prison that assesses a detainee or inmate’s risks of engaging in harmful behavior or of being harmed while incarcerated, determining the type of housing and program access.

Classification facility

Generally a facility managed by a state department of corrections to which newly sentenced inmates are evaluated so that their security risks and needs can be assessed and they can be assigned to a permanent setting or institution.

Clerk of court

An employee of a court who oversees administrative functions, especially managing the flow of cases through the court.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A problem-focused approach designed to help people identify and change the dysfunctional beliefs, thoughts, and patterns of behavior that contribute to their problems.

Community corrections

A component of the criminal justice system that offers programs and services in the community and/or viable alternatives to incarceration for individuals at various stages of the criminal justice process. Community corrections may include pretrial programs; behavior change strategies; restitution, fines and fee collection; probation and parole supervision; electronic monitoring; community service; day reporting centers; and residential facilities.

Community courts

Neighborhood-based courts that focus on creative partnerships and problem solving to address local problems in the justice system. These courts provide speedy adjudication of minor crimes and misde-meanors, as well as restitution, social service referrals and supervision of adjudicated people.

Community detention centers

A short-term, locally based incarceration facility close to where the defendant or inmate resides.

Community policing

Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.

Community sentencing circles

A restorative justice practice of resolving a dispute or a criminal or delinquency case using appointed community representatives, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and the offender(s) via mediation.

Synonyms: Sentencing boards

Community service

Performance of labor or services in the public’s interest without pay for the benefit of a community, non-profit organization, or government agency as required by a diversionary condition or sentence for a specified period of time. In some jurisdictions, individuals can perform volunteer service in lieu of paying a fine or serving jail time. May be individually tailored or as part of a work crew.

Concurrent sentence

Prison terms for two or more convictions to be served simultaneously, rather than one sentence following after the other. As a result, the person’s actual time under correctional supervision is equal to their longest sentence.

Conditional release

The release of a defendant to the community while awaiting the next court hearing. The defendant agrees to meet specific conditions of release including maintaining contact with a pretrial release program. Conditions may include participating in treatment, alcohol/drug monitoring, maintaining employment, and having no direct or indirect contact with a victim.

Consecutive sentence

Prison terms for two or more convictions to be served one after the other. Different from a concurrent sentence, a consecutive sentence is the total of each sentence for each conviction, essentially maximizing the amount of time the individual is to spend under correctional supervision.

Containment approach

This approach recognizes the need for multiple stakeholders within the criminal justice and community setting to facilitate accountability, rehabilitation, and victim and community safety throughout all phases of the justice system.


An illegal substance or object.


A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Correctional supervision

Placement of a defendant or sentenced individual under the care, custody and control in a jail, prison or community corrections setting.


Legal advice; a term also used to refer to an attorney.


An allegation in an indictment, charging the defendant with a crime. An indictment may contain allegations that the defendant committed more than one crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count.


Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use “court” to refer to themselves in the third person, as in “the court has read the briefs.”

Criminogenic needs

Refers to those potentially crime-producing factors in an individual’s life associated with criminal behavior.


The scientific approach to the study of criminal behavior and society’s reaction to it.

Cultural Competence

Possession of knowledge and skills by professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations.

Synonyms: Cultural Sensitivity

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Day fines

A financial penalty system based on an offender’s daily income, rather than fixed schedule of dollar amounts to be imposed by the court.

Day reporting centers

Nonresidential treatment facility where those awaiting trial, or those who have been sentenced to community supervision are required to attend meetings, submit to drug testing, participate in educational and/or treatment programs, meet with their assigned officer, and comply with other community requirements.

Day treatment facilities

Community-based, non-residential programs for sentenced individuals, both juvenile and adult.


An individual against whom a criminal proceeding is pending.


An individual who is awaiting trial for an alleged crime and held in a local jail.

Determinate sentencing

State and/or Federal statutes that seek to decrease judicial discretion in individual sentencing cases in an effort to make sentencing more equitable. Consists of fixed periods of incarceration established by statute or a sentencing commission.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR)

Manual that allows mental health practitioners to label, or diagnose, an individual so that the person can be better categorized for further mental health treatment interventions.

Diagnostic staff

Classification, medical, and mental health staff who diagnose inmate characteristics and problems and decide on inmate housing, medical care, and mental health intervention. Staff may also include inmate programs staff.

Synonyms: Treatment staff


The final judicial decision, which terminates a criminal proceeding by a judgment of acquittal or dismissal or which states the specific sentence in the case of a guilty plea or conviction. In juvenile court, it is the final decision and orders of the court.


Diversionary programs remove the defendant’s case from further steps in criminal or juvenile justice case processing if the defendant participates in specified activities. Diversionary programs operate at the “front-end” of criminal/delinquency processing by screening for appropriate participants. Diversion can take place along with community policing citation and release programs. It can operate through pre-trial services programs, probation, prosecutors, judges, or other supervised programs. Diversionary programs incorporate rehabilitative elements such as drug treatment. Many drug courts, teen courts, and TASC (Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities) programs are diversion projects. The elements of diversion include early screening, referral to non-criminal justice agencies and programs, suspension of proceedings, or dismissal of case upon completion of requirements for diversion.

Domestic violence

Refers to violence between spouses, or spousal abuse but can also include cohabitants and non-married intimate partners.

Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI, DWI, OUI)

The operation of any vehicle or boat after having consumed a quantity of alcohol sufficient to potentially interfere with the ability to maintain safe operation. This limit is legally defined, by mandate of Congress, as having a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or above.

Synonyms: Drunk driving

Driving under the influence of drugs

The operation of any vehicle or boat while the driver’s attention or ability is impaired through the intake of a narcotic or an incapacitating quantity of another drug.

Drug courts

Specialized courts dedicated to processing illegal drug abuse cases and engaging individuals in treatment while under court supervision.

Drug or alcohol testing

Administration of testing technologies, such as breath analysis, urinalysis, blood, hair analysis, skin patch, sweat, and others, to detect the use of alcohol or other specific illegal substances.

Dual diagnosis

A term that denotes that the individual has two or more physical or mental disorders.

Due process

In criminal law, a procedural protection of those constitutional rights that guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial or hearing.

DWI/DUI Courts

Specialized courts dedicated to processing the DWI offender and engaging offenders in treatment while under court supervision.

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Electronic monitoring

Use of technological devices to increase effectiveness in supervising and tracking individuals who are required to abide by a curfew, a structured schedule allowing for work, school or treatment, and otherwise are required to remain in or avoid certain areas as a condition of release or a sentence.

Employment readiness and work programs

Offer job skills training, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and employment placement activities, which are used to increase an individual’s employability and capacity to meet his or her financial obligations.


Conclusions drawn from rigorous research studies that have been replicated numerous times with defined, measurable outcomes about the effectiveness of an intervention or process.

Excessive force

A measure of physical coercion beyond what is necessary to control participants in a conflict.

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Faith-based programs

Programs that are grounded in religious values and practices.

Federal Ward

A youth who is held in the custody of the federal government. These youth include undocumented immigrant youth and those youth held in the custody of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


Payments individuals are ordered to make to a court, probation department, or other agency for services.


Generally, a range of crimes that can be punished by a sentence of a year or more of incarceration or community corrections supervision.

Field training officer (FTO)

An experienced staff member who serves as a training supervisor of the new jail/corrections officer within the facility for a specific number of hours; requires the new officer to perform tasks such as searches and headcounts, etc.; and observes and evaluates the trainee's job performance in these tasks.


Court-ordered or statutorily required payments to a designated agency, such as court administration, as part of a criminal penalty or diversion program.


Economic penalties that involve permanent or temporary seizure of assets or personal property.

Synonyms: Impoundment

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General Educational Development (GED)

The GED is a nationally recognized alternative to the high school diploma. To obtain a GED, one must pass a test that consists of five sections: reading, science, social studies, math, and writing.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

This type of system uses satellites to determine the location of a transmitter worn by an individual by tracking coordinates. By using the satellite monitoring and remote tracking, individuals can be monitored and tracked to their current location.

Good time

The number of days deducted from a sentence by jail or prison authorities for good behavior, the absence of violations or for other reasons.

Group Home

A residential facility that operates in a home like setting designed to provide supervision, counseling and other services to housing a specific type of detainee, sentenced individual or someone released from incarceration.

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Halfway house

Residential facility for probationers who are court ordered to stay at the facility during some portion of their community supervision. Parolees who are exiting prison may be required to stay at one of these facilities as an adjustment period to re-entering the community.

Home confinement

An intermediate community corrections sanction or a condition of pretrial release that restricts individuals to their residences for a specified period except during specifically designated times when they are authorized to attend vocational, educational, and treatment activities. Home confinement is often paired with electronic monitoring.

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Ignition interlock

A technological device that limits access to or prohibits motor vehicle operation if the driver has been drinking. This technological device logs activity on the device and tracks violations.

In-service training

Training that is designed to maintain the professional qualifications or certification of the jail/correctional officer by requiring that a specific number of training hours in applicable subjects are attended during a specific time period.


Deprives the justice-involved individual of liberty and removes this individual from society with the intent of ensuring that society cannot be further victimized during a term of incarceration.

Indeterminate sentencing

Sentencing that includes a range of years that will be potentially served by the individual. The individual is released with terms and conditions at some point within that range by a parole board or releasing authority.

Indian Country

Indian Country is a term in law that includes all lands within an Indian reservation, dependent Indian communities, and Indian trust allotments (18 U.S.C. § 1151). Courts interpret § 1151 to include all lands held in trust for tribes or their members. See United States v. Roberts, 185 F.3d 1125 (10th Cir. 1999). Tribal authority to imprison American Indian offenders is limited to one year per offense by statute (25 U.S.C. § 1302), a $5,000 fine, or both.

Indian country jails

Adult and juvenile detention centers, jails, and other correctional facilities operated by tribal authorities or the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), U.S. Department of the Interior within Indian country.


A document that outlines the charge or charges against a defendant.


A term often used to denote an individual convicted of an offense and committed to the care, custody and control in a jail, prison or community corrections setting.

Intensive supervision probation (ISP)

Community supervision of an individual that requires daily or frequent reporting to a probation or parole officer, along with participation in other programs and adherence to other monitoring requirements. This program involves more direct interaction between the probationer/parolee and the supervising officer than regular probation or parole.

Intermediate sanctions

A range of sentencing options from least restrictive to scaling up to more restrictive – including brief periods of incarceration.


An internship provides experience to those looking for exposure and experience in a field of interest in order to gain the knowledge and skills required to enter a specific career field, or apply for a regular position. Depending on the agency, internships may be paid or unpaid (for class credit).

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A facility in the local community operated by a sheriff, a county government or through a regional authority designed to hold individuals awaiting trial or serving short (generally less than one year) sentences.

Jail direct supervision

A type of jail design where the jail officer is placed inside the inmate housing unit with no physical barriers.

Jail services

Services offered to inmates to aid in rehabilitation or to provide some sort of assistance, such as healthcare, food services, recreation, mail, commissary, barber, property, and libraries.

Synonyms: Corrections services


The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact. A jury may also participate in the sentencing phase of a trial, after a finding of guilt, recommending to the judge the sentence to be imposed.


A person not yet of legal age. The age for criminal justice purposes depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is typically 16 or 18.

Juvenile delinquency

A special justice category created for young offenders, usually those between 7 and 18 years of age.

Juvenile delinquent

A juvenile who is found to violate the law, including status offenses not applicable to adults.

Juvenile detention facility

A usually secure facility for juveniles who are awaiting trial that may also be used as a post-adjudication placement. It is generally reserved for the more serious and chronic juvenile defendants or offenders.

Juvenile holdover

This concept ensures that juveniles are not subjected to secure detention for minor infractions that do not warrant it or simply because the guardians cannot be located. Juvenile offenders are monitored in a safe and secure location when taken into custody by law enforcement while their parents are located or a placement situation can be arranged.

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Less-lethal force

Less-lethal force involves the application of technologies by trained individuals which provide an alternative to using other physical force options that potentially are more dangerous or lethal. The technologies include, but are not limited to, conducted-energy devices (such as Tasers), beanbag rounds, batons, pepper spray and stun grenades.

License suspension

Removal of the privilege to practice a profession or operate a vehicle. These are administrative, not judicial, sanctions.

Local county corrections department

County or local agency that operates the local jail, but is not a sheriff's office.

Local law enforcement officer

An employee of a local law enforcement agency who is an officer sworn to carry out law enforcement duties and normally carries a firearm. Examples are sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, chiefs of police, city police officers, etc.

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Mandatory release

A method of release from prison under which an inmate is released after serving a legally required portion of his or her sentence, minus good-time credits. Mandatory release may also occur after an inmate has served his/her full sentence.

Mandatory sentencing

Sentencing in which a specified number of years of imprisonment is provided for particular crimes by state or federal law.


A process that brings disputing parties together in the presence of an impartial third party, who helps the disputants work out an agreement. The disputants, not the mediator, decide the terms of this agreement. Mediation often focuses on terms of restitution and on future behavior. Mediation may be used to divert individuals from criminal prosecution, resolve civil disputes, or as a component of civil or criminal adjudication.

Mediation program

An intervention in which the victim and offender meet face-to-face, in the presence of a trained mediator, to discuss the crime and the impact it has had on their lives in order to determine a mutually agreed-upon plan to assist in the reparation of the harm that occurred.

Synonyms: Offender/Victim Dialogue program

Mental Health Treatment

A court imposed condition to require an individual to undergo evaluation and treatment for a mental disorder. Treatment may include psychiatric, psychological, and sex offense-specific evaluations, inpatient or outpatient counseling, and medication.


A crime (e.g., petty theft, prostitution, public intoxication, simple assault, vandalism, etc.) that can be generally punished by a sentence of no more than twelve months of incarceration or community corrections supervision.

Mitigating factors

Extenuating elements present in a crime that the judge can take into account at the time of sentencing, which may result in a lesser sentence.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a person-centered style of communicating that helps people explore and resolve ambivalence about changing specific, maladaptive behaviors. This person-centered style is both directive—guided by the agent toward specific behavior change—and offender centered—attentive to the offender’s needs, wants, and beliefs about the change process.

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A phenomenon that occurs when the offenders placed in a program are not those for whom the program was intended. As a result those offenders may receive more severe sanctions than they would have had they not been subjected to the program.

Nolo contendere

No contest. A plea of nolo contendere has the same effective as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose. In other words, the defendant accepts the punishment for the crime but does not confess guilt for the crime.


A non-offender is a juvenile who is subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, usually under abuse, dependency, or neglect statutes, for reasons other than legally prohibited behavior of the juvenile. Such cases are referred to by various names including Children in Need of Services (CHINS), Children in Protective Services (CHIPS), and Families in Need of Services (FINS).

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Out of home placement

Court ordered placement of a juvenile offender in facility such as a correctional institution, residential treatment facility, group home or foster home.

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An act of executive clemency that absolves the party in part or in full from the legal consequences of the crime and conviction.


A decision to release an inmate from a confinement facility, prior to the expiration of his or her sentence, and place him or her under the supervision of a community supervision agency subject to specific terms and conditions of release. The term is often used for the legal status of a juvenile released from a correctional facility. The term “aftercare” may be utilized in these circumstances.

Synonyms: Supervised release Reentry

Parole authority

A releasing entity that has the authority to release on parole those adults or juveniles committed to confinement facilities. They also have the authority to revoke parole, and to discharge from parole.

Peace Officer

The definitions of a “peace officer” are governed by state law, and therefore vary by jurisdiction. A peace officer generally refers to any employee of a state, county, or a municipality, a sheriff or other public law enforcement agency, whose duties include arrests, searches and seizures, execution of criminal and civil warrants, and is responsible for the prevention or detection of crime or for the enforcement of the penal, traffic or highway laws. The Peace Officer definition may also include those deputy sheriffs whose duties include the care, custody and control of inmates in a jail setting.

Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)

In some states, the POST provides peace officers with the training and certification mandated by a state, including the authority to carry firearms, concealed or otherwise, subject to the written firearms policy created by the agency employing the peace officer.

Podular remote surveillance jail

A type of jail design where the jail officer control booth is centrally located and surrounded by inmate housing units called "pods". The visual observation is increased and verbal communication is limited to intercom.

Synonyms: Panopticon


An electronically based testing procedure designed to discern whether an individual is being truthful in response to a series of questions posed to him/her by measuring biological responses.

Synonyms: Lie detector test

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

A psychological condition resulting from a violent event that evokes intense fear, terror and helplessness; a debilitating stressful reaction to a trauma that may last for months or years. It can be experienced not only by crime victims, but also by those who help the victims.

Preponderance of evidence

Level of proof generally required in civil matters. Evidence that outweighs the opposing evidence, or sufficient evidence to overcome doubt or speculation.

Presentence investigation report

Preparation of a written report presenting an individual’s background data and assessment information to assist the court in determining an appropriate sentence or sentencing conditions and follow-up treatment or services.

Synonyms: Predispositional investigation report


A period of time referring to the phase of a criminal defendant's case beginning at arrest and ending at final disposition. The term is often misused to refer to a pretrial services agency or program, or to pretrial services supervision.

Pretrial Justice

Pretrial justice involves the proper administration of laws through fair and effective pretrial policies and practices for "the host of decisions that occur, from the arrest up to the point at which the case is concluded or disposed of" (Transcript: Just Matters - Interview with Tim Murray regarding Pre-Trial Justice and the Crucial Role Reentry Programs Play in the Justice System). This definition release/detention decision applies to all decisions made during the pretrial phase of the criminal process. A similarly broad definition, drafted with inspiration from the United States Probation and Pretrial Services Charter for Excellence, is as follows; "The honoring of the presumption of innocence, the right to bail that is not excessive, and all other legal and constitutional rights afforded to accused persons awaiting trial while balancing these individual rights with the need to protect the community, maintain the integrity of the judicial process, and assure court appearance." (Marie VanNostrand, Pretrial Justice - Afforded to Few, Denied to Many)

Pretrial Risk Assessment

The method by which a pretrial services program/agency or individual identifies and categorizes the risk of pretrial misconduct presented by a particular defendant based upon the information gathered before the bail hearing. The risk assessment can be either subjective or objective. Subjective assessments are based on an evaluation of the defendant by the interviewer, who draws on his or her prior experience to assess release appropriateness. Objective assessments are based on procedures and conclusions supported by research and national organizations, such as the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies and the American Bar Association, through their published standards.

Pretrial Services Agency

While widely varying, a pretrial services agency or program is generally known as any organization created ideally to perform the three primary pretrial agency or program functions of: (1) collecting and analyzing defendant information for use by the court in assessing risk; (2) making recommendations to the court concerning bail bond conditions of release to address risk; and (3) monitoring and supervising defendants who are released from secure custody during the pretrial phase of their cases in order to manage their risk.

Synonyms: Pretrial services program

Pretrial Supervision

The act of managing, directing, or overseeing a defendant who has been released from secure custody during the pretrial phase of a criminal case, ideally to reasonably ensure both court appearance and public safety. It is often re-phrased as "pretrial services supervision," and used to refer to supervision by a pretrial services program or agency, engaged to provide oversight for compliance with all conditions of bail bond to further the dual purpose of bail. Because commercial bail bondsmen are only concerned with court appearance, their oversight in any particular case could arguably be considered a more limited form of "pretrial supervision," but likely never "pretrial services supervision."


Secure facility generally operated by a state or the federal government in which adult felons are incarcerated. Private companies may also run prisons under the regulatory oversight of a government entity. Six states (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, Alaska, and Hawaii) have an integrated correctional system that combines jails and prisons.

Private Prisons

Privately owned and operated companies that contract with federal or state correctional agencies to provide confinement facilities and programs.

Private Probation

Privately owned and operated companies that contract with correctional public justice agencies to provide probation supervision.


A sentencing option whereby an individual who has been found guilty of a crime is permitted by the court to remain in the community under supervision with or without having to serve any jail time. Failure to satisfy the conditions (which may include the requirement for reporting to a supervision officer, paying fines and restitution, attending treatment, and maintaining law abiding behavior) may result in stricter sanctions or revocation of the right to remain in the community. While the judge maintains jurisdiction over the sentence, the supervision or monitoring may be provided by a government entity or by a private provider under contract to the governmental entity or the court.

Probation conditions

Court requirements that a probationer must abide by or fulfill during the course of probation supervision.

Protective custody

The segregation of a detainee or inmate within a jail, prison or other secure facility for his or her own safety.

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There are numerous definitions for this term. Among them are: an arrest for a new offense; a violation of supervision conditions; a conviction for a new offense or a return to custody.


Verbal or written suggestions to the court regarding the conditions of release or detention appropriate for the case at hand.

Regional jails

Jails that are operated by several jurisdictions jointly by mutual agreement, with each jurisdiction contributing funds for operations and staffing.


The individual is provided the opportunity and means to change his or her behavior, thinking processes and circumstances to reduce the possibility of further criminal behavior.


The process of helping a detainee or inmate rebuild former ties to the community and establish new ties after release from jail or prison.

Release on Own Recognizance (ROR)

A release secured by a defendant’s written promise to appear in court.

Residential drug treatment

Treatment facilities in which individuals are required to reside for a period of time in order to receive services to address substance abuse issues.


Compensation to victims or communities by the probationer or parolee to offset or mitigate the loss or damage that has occurred as the result of the crime.

Restorative justice

A victim-centered approach that views crimes as a violation against individuals, their families and communities, and seeks to repair the harm done. This is accomplished through mediation, reparation and empowerment of both victim and offender. It requires the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions.


A legal process by which the court, a hearing officer, and/or paroling authority determines whether the probationer or parolee who is not complying with the terms of his or her release is to be returned to jail or prison, or a stayed sentence to incarceration is vacated and the individual is remanded to jail or prison.

Risk assessment

An assessment of an individual’s risk of re-offending using actuarial evidence-based factors to indicate potential for criminal/delinquent behavior to assist in making offender classification (e.g., low, moderate, high risk) and supervision level decisions.

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Security level

A designation applied to a correctional facility to describe the measures taken, both inside and outside, to preserve security and custody. In general, jails are considered high/maximum security due to the wide range of alleged offenses committed by the detainees or inmates held. State or Federal prisons may be designated as low, medium, high or special management levels based on the classification of the inmates they hold.


The sanction ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.

Shock incarceration

The placement of individuals in secure correctional facilities for a short period of time that is followed by a specific term of community supervision as a deterrent to reoffending.

Special needs inmates

Detainees or inmates with physical or psychological issues or other factors that require specialized attention and care such as those with developmental disabilities, suicidal tendencies, mental illness, the elderly, and individuals with chronic medical conditions.

Status offender

A juvenile offender who has been charged with or adjudicated for behavior that would not, under the law of the jurisdiction in which the offense was committed, be a crime if committed by an adult. Status offenses included, but are not limited to, truancy, violations of curfew, running away, underage possession and/or consumption of tobacco products, and underage alcohol offenses.


A written order issued by a judicial officer requiring a specified individual to appear at a designated time and specific court.

Substance abuse treatment

Treatment may include inpatient or outpatient counseling. Prisons and jails may offer substance abuse education and treatment to sentenced individuals.


A written order issued by a judicial officer, which may be a probation officer, requiring a person accused of a criminal offense or the violation of the terms and conditions of probation to appear in a designated court at a specific time to answer the charge or allegation.

Sworn jail staff

Uniform jail staff who have law enforcement powers, such as the power of arrest, and who receive training that meets state and agency standards.

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Technical violation

A probationer or parolee’s violation of the conditions of sentencing or release, but not a violation of criminal statute. Violations are reported to the sentencing judge, a hearing officer, or a paroling authority to determine the seriousness of the violation and to determine the response.

Temporary-release programs

Programs that allow jail or prison inmates to leave the facility for short periods to participate in approved community activities.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA)

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA, P.L. 108-79) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in September 2003, the first ever federal legislation to address the sexual abuse of persons in the custody of federal, state, local, and private prisons, jails, police lock-ups, juvenile detention facilities, and community confinement facilities, PREA established a zero tolerance for sexual abuse within correctional settings and called for the development of national standards for the detection, prevention, and reduction of sexual abuse in confinement, the collection of data on the incidence of sexual abuse in correctional settings, and the delivery of training and technical assistance to assist jurisdictions in addressing prisoner rape. The Attorney General of the United States promulgated national PREA standards effective August 20, 20123. States that fail to certify compliance with the PREA Standards through audits could be subject to a 5% reduction in federal grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice for prison programs.


The experience of interpersonal violence including sexual assault/abuse, physical abuse, neglect, loss, and/or the witnessing of violence, terrorism, and disasters (National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD).

Tribal court

A court administered through self-government of an American Indian tribe and having federally prescribed criminal jurisdiction over offenses committed on tribal lands by members of the tribe, and broader civil jurisdiction over claims between tribe members and nonmembers.

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Unsupervised probation

A period of time set by the court in which a person convicted of a criminal offense must abide by conditions set by the court, in lieu of a period of incarceration, without face-to-face probation monitoring.

Synonyms: Administrative probation

Use of force

Use of force describes the amount of effort required to compel compliance of a lawful order or direction by an unwilling individual. The levels, or continuum, of force include basic verbal and physical restraint, less-lethal force and lethal force.

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Victim impact statement

Prior to sentencing of a defendant, the court permits victims to voice their sense of trauma and victimization that resulted from the criminal actions of the offender to the sentencing authority.

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Court authorization, most often for law enforcement officers, to conduct a search or make an arrest.

Work release

A program in which detainees or inmates in secure or non-secure residential facilities are permitted to be employed in the community, look for employment, or participate in other educational programs, but return to the facility at the close of each day.

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