Before the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act
Prior to the creation of CSOSA, the District of Columbia agencies responsible for managing the community supervision of D.C. Code offenders - the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency; the D.C. Board of Parole; and the Office of Adult Probation, Social Services Division, Superior Court of the District of Columbia - lacked sufficient resources and the basic infrastructure to provide fully effective monitoring for most individuals under criminal justice control. Throughout the 1990s, the financial difficulties of the District worsened, leading to the establishment of a financial "Control Board" and then to the Revitalization Act, described previously.
By all accounts, prior to the Revitalization Act, public safety in the District of Columbia was seriously challenged. The tax base was eroding while a greater percentage of the local budget was being consumed by the burgeoning costs of maintaining a large prison system. Community corrections (probation and parole) suffered tremendously as resources were diverted to institutional corrections.
This phenomenon was by no means unique to the District of Columbia. As prison populations around the country exploded throughout the 1980s and 1990s, probation and parole caseloads grew at a more modest but still significant rate. Funding for community corrections did not keep pace, resulting in unmanageable caseloads in some jurisdictions, some as high as 500 offenders for each probation or parole officer.
Nationally, over 6.5 million individuals are under some form of criminal justice supervision - either on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole. More than 70 percent of this population is in the community. Yet 90 percent of the "correctional dollar" goes to maintain residential institutions such as jails and prisons. Prior to the Revitalization Act, the situation in the District was comparable to that of other states, with one significant difference: the District did not have a statewide revenue system to pay for these functions. Thus, the deterioration of basic public safety functions was far worse in the District; leading eventually to a "rescue package" designed to provide federal funding for what would normally be state-level functions.
In the area of offender supervision, the Revitalization Act provided a unique opportunity to reverse these discouraging trends and employ a potentially potent strategy to improve public safety at the neighborhood level. If most crime is committed by people already known to the justice system, and if more than two-thirds of all adult offenders are already in the community and at least legally subject to supervision, that leverage can be used to influence their conduct, hold them accountable, and create an environment more conducive to their successful re-entry to law abiding society. Prior to the Revitalization Act, there was neither a broad-based organizational commitment nor the resources to make use of that criminal justice leverage, except for small numbers of individuals in specialized programs, such as the "Drug Court."