Alternatives to Incarceration
Alternatives to incarceration have been legislatively endorsed for more than 20 years.
The principle which guided the early movement toward alternatives was that prisons are destructive to the humanity of prisoners, guards, administration, and the community. Alternatives were designed to keep people out of jail and prison.
Unfortunately, alternatives have been underfunded and underutilized. Moreover, alternatives have become "add-ons" to increase punishment of the offender. Example: a period of jail time may be followed by probation, accompanied by mandatory community service, restitution to the victim, plus a condition of drug treatment while on probation. Four alternatives have been added to a jail sentence and not kept the person out of jail.
Alternatives work! They are cost-effective, enforceable, and significantly reduce recidivism. Alternatives can be used at any point in the criminal justice process: alternatives to pre-trial confinement, alternatives to prosecution, sentencing alternatives, post-confinement alternatives. The following are examples of alternative programs:
- Community service orders
- Employment assistance/job development
- Third Party Advocacy
- Alcohol and Drug Treatment
- Mental and other health services
Prison should be the last resort used only for the most violent and dangerous citizens in the community. Too often, jails and prisons are the first community response to complicated social problems like addiction and poverty. Alternatives to incarceration provide creative responses that address the real needs of the individual and the community.
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