Alternatives to Incarceration

One in 136 Americans were in jail or prison at midyear 2005, including 12 percent of black males aged 25-29, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

However, the number of individuals incarcerated in New York dropped by 2.5 percent, the third largest decrease in the nation.

It would be interesting to find what role, if any, the widespread adoption of drug courts across New York has played in the state's decreased incarceration rate.

Nationwide, individuals awaiting trial or incarcerated for a year or less represented the largest inmate increase from mid-year 2004. The short-term jail population is one we're very interested in, because we see a community-based sanction as a good alternative to a jail sentence of ten days or less (which was meted out in the Bronx over 3,000 times in 2003). We'll know more about our impact on short-term jail sentences in the weeks ahead.

Comments

Todd said…
The statistics don't lie. As a filmmaker who has spent the past couple years working on a project about low-level offenders, I've been astounded by the sheer volume of folks who repeatedly wind up in jail for minor offences. The racial dimensions your mention also can't be ignored - take a trip out to NYC's colossal Rikers Island jail complex and you'll notice the overwhelming majority of people there are people of color.

I'm inspired by the idea of community-based sanctions, and encouraged to see the idea has gained some traction. One thing we've encountered with our film is that criminal activity may just be one problem among many for some offenders, who are also wrestling with homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, mental health and health problems, and many other issues. How do you make a community sanction have impact on someone with so many other top-tier issues? I'll be checking in to read your thoughts on BCS's progress in the months ahead.
Anonymous said…
Todd raises an important challenge for problem-solving court approaches -- crafting community sanctions that positively impact the underlying issues that drive criminal behavior. The core principles of the problem-solving court movement include the need for community engagement and partnership building. Problem-solving courts recognize that courts cannot on their own address many of the social issues that lead to offending behavior. They also recognize that communities are a resource both for the court in seeking to address the needs of offenders and for the offenders who, despite their trouble with the law, are still members of the community.

I think problem-solving courts bring the added benefit of holding social service systems and criminal justice partners accountable for results. The immediacy, scrutiny and close collaboration that problem-solving courts demand helps each partner organization to stay focused on results for the offender. One local challenge for problem-solving court partnerships is what to do when your systems lack the capacity to deliver timely and effective services like drug and mental health treatment? Political will is still needed to support effective systems of prevention, intervention, and treatment in the community.

Christopher Watler
Center for Court Innovation
The Dante said…
I was checking out your blog and i clicked on success stories. Nothing came up on the page that popped up. Could it be that you have no first person accounts for the success of these programs. Well if that's so then you can contact me if you wish. I just completed a mandation by Manhattans D-Tap program. It was difficult and it took me a couple of years to complete. However it beats going to prison for a non-violent drug chanrge. The state was trying to lock me up for 4-12 years and so with little hope of winning the case i chose the drug treatment alternative. Today i have my own apartment, a wonderful girlfriend, a cat, a job, and most of all my sanity. I once was a hopeless dopefiend and today i am a dopeless hopefiend. Thanks to the opportunity of an alternative to sentacing. These prgrams work if you're willing to change. No matter the severity of your chemical dependency.
Dante - That link isn't working, I just fixed it. Here's the link to all the success stories we've posted:

http://changingthecourt.blogspot.com/search/label/Success%20Stories