City Alternative to Incarceration Program Expands

October 23, 2020


Partnership with nationally recognized George Mason University research team leads to increased number of providers, diversified programming options to better serve more clients

New investments expected to result in additional 15% recidivism reduction among participants

Visit MOCJ’s ATI program page for more information

NEW YORK—The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) is expanding its successful Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programming, increasing the number of providers and programs across the City through millions in new investments.

The expansion comes after a multi-year, cooperative effort by the City, policy experts, non-profits and justice-impacted people to revamp its original ATI programming. Partnering closely with Dr. Faye Taxman, a nationally recognized criminologist at George Mason University, the City identified the key support and service opportunities that, if expanded, can lead to improved long-term results for program participants.

“New York City continues to be a national leader by investing in programs that help support the community, while continuing to safely reduce the number of people in jail,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “The expansion of our ATI programming is an important aspect of the City’s commitment to building a smaller, safer and fairer justice system by implementing robust, community-based support services to ensure enduring safety.”

Dr. Taxman’s research shows that this evolution of the ATI model is likely to see a drop in ATI participants’ recidivism by an additional 15%. To achieve this, the City has committed to increasing the number of service providers from 11 to 15 and expanding the number of programs offered by service providers from 16 to 24 to better address participants’ unique needs. This additional programming will not only mean an increase beyond the 2019 diversion capacity of 5,500 people, but will importantly offer new and expanded opportunities, including:

• Increased capacity for felony cases: Bail reform has meant fewer misdemeanor cases are now facing incarceratory sentences. To continue to reduce the jail population meaningfully, there is a need for additional alternatives to incarceration for felony cases, including for violent felony cases. These ATI programs are typically longer and more intensive than ATI programs for misdemeanors.

• Increased capacity for voluntary post-mandate services: Dr. Taxman’s research emphasized that the length of individuals’ engagement in services should be driven by their needs, not the judicial mandate. She recommended that individuals receive relatively short mandates but be able to access services for as long as they need, which contributes substantially to recidivism reductions.

• Evidence-based practices and quality assurance: Dr. Taxman recommended that the City’s ATI programming should even more expansively incorporate evidence-based practices and quality assurance protocols into program models, which is critical to ensuring that ATI programs are effective at reducing recidivism and supporting individuals’ wellbeing in the community.

• Additional substance use, mental health, and physical health services: Dr. Taxman’s study identified the need for the City to increase these services in ATI programming due to the needs found among the ATI population. Based on Dr. Taxman’s recommendations, the City is also investing additional resources in various clinical and supportive services within ATI programs to address participants’ needs.

• Additional programming focused on women and young people: Dr. Taxman’s study found a need to increase ATI services for these particular populations given their unique needs, in particular behavioral health services for women, and education/literacy and employment services for young people.

These new expansions will help more people stay out of jail, both during their participation in ATI programming and going forward.

“Our team used simulation models to examine the clinical and supportive service needs of the ATI population. MOCJ used our models to increase ATI services across New York City and broaden the scope and duration of these services in order to ensure long-term results,” said Dr. Faye Taxman.

ATI programs reduce the court’s reliance on incarceration, helping to lower the jail population and providing participants access to evidence-based programming to increase stability and opportunity, while reducing future involvement in the criminal justice system.

In 2013, the City invested approximately $11 million in ATI programming, which has since expanded to approximately $19.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Following that expansion, the City saw a 29% decline in individuals admitted to jail on a city sentence—mostly those charged with misdemeanors—compared to the previous year. Over the next two years, the City will further expand its investment in ATI services by providing approximately $55 million in total funding to further expand available programming.

Providers on the City’s ATI expansion:

“At Housing Works, we know firsthand that substance use and mental health challenges are significant factors that can lead to people getting arrested,” Housing Works Senior Vice-President for Programs Michael Clarke said. “Court involvement is an ideal time to try to engage someone in treatment. The ATI program mandates individuals to substance use or mental health programs instead of incarceration and allows that treatment to happen, creating more possibilities for better outcomes. It is especially critical to have these programs in place now that people in NYC jails are particularly at high risk of acquiring COVID-19.”

“It has never been more important to invest in the communities disproportionately affected by the twin viruses of Covid-19 and racism, and to move away from reliance on incarceration to address the root causes of poverty and violence,” said Liz Gaynes, President of the Osborne Association. “We are grateful for the City’s commitment to decarceration that will enable us to continue to provide vital services that empower men, women, and young adults to transform their lives and communities.”

“We are proud to be among the non-profits selected by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to reduce the damage inflicted by the criminal justice system by dramatically reducing the use of jail and offering services that help people thrive,” said Center for Court Innovation Executive Director Courtney Bryan. “The City’s expanding investment in alternatives to incarceration will allow us to bring services to more people in every borough, further reducing the population on Rikers Island and providing transformational support to those who need it most.”

“CASES is excited to expand our partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in providing effective alternative-to-incarceration programs that are helping to make possible the closing of Rikers Island,” CASES Executive Director Joel Copperman said. “Since 1967, CASES’ programs have consistently proven that jail and prison alternatives make the City safer by helping court-involved individuals–including youth disconnected from school and work, and adults living with serious mental illness–to address needs and challenges, build skills, and access meaningful opportunities for success in the community.”

“Exodus Transitional Community is excited to launch a trauma-informed Alternative-to-Incarceration (ATI) program for men charged with misdemeanors and/or felonies in Manhattan. By investing in ATIs, we are working to decarcerate and transform our justice system into one that is fair and equitable for all people,” said Exodus Transitional Community Senior Director of Alternatives to Incarceration Jennifer Kaake.

“We are excited to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and are grateful to the City for continuing to support powerful communities like The Women’s Project. Through strong partnerships can come impactful systemic change.” The Fedcap Group Senior Director of Justice Initiatives Valentina M. Morales said.

“We appreciate the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice’s continued support of ATI programs, including CCA’s Community Solutions program, during these uniquely challenging times,” said Center for Community Alternatives Executive Director David Condliffe. “Using a holistic and trauma-informed approach, CCA will provide crucial services to all NYC communities, especially those in Brooklyn, while addressing the unique needs of each program participant so that they may lead productive, law-abiding lives.”

“The Women’s Prison Association (WPA) is grateful to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice for its continued support of our vision in which the country’s reliance on incarceration as the default response to harm has been replaced by constructive, community-based alternatives,” Women’s Prison Association Executive Director Georgia Lerner said. “As one of only three grantees dedicated solely to women, we look forward to proving the effectiveness of trauma-responsive care that prioritizes the health, safety, and empowerment of women and their families – and to advancing New York City’s efforts toward decarceration.”

Fortune Society President & CEO JoAnne Page said, “The Fortune Society deeply supports New York City’s and MOCJ’s commitment to funding Alternative to Incarceration and Alternative to Detention programs.  These programs are essential for both community safety and a fairer and smaller criminal justice system.  New York City has been a model for the nation as it moves away from the tragedy of mass incarceration, and funding these programs continues that commitment.”

“We are honored to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and be part of an extraordinary and disciplined cohort of ATI providers dedicated to racial equity and advancing justice for the young people of our city,” exalt Executive Director Gisele Castro said. “exalt provides court-involved youth a clear path to college and careers with a robust academic and work development program as well as support to help reduce and vacate sentences. We are excited to share our tested and proven model and transform the lives of countless families across New York City.”

“As the City’s only ATI specifically designed to serve survivors of gender-based violence, we are deeply grateful for MOCJ’s commitment to supporting the high quality clinical and legal advocacy services we offer for survivors whose arrests are inextricable from their efforts to survive abusive partner behavior,” said Rising Ground’s STEPS to End Family Violence Senior Vice President Anne Patterson.

“We are proud to build on our twenty-year history by continuing to partner with the City to provide crucial alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) services to young people,” Urban Youth Alliance International’s BronxConnect-ManhattanConnect Executive Director Rev. Wendy Calderón-Payne said. “Avoiding incarceration provides youth with unique opportunities to redefine their lives. Community-based ATI programs honor the humanity of youth, while addressing the harm and trauma that led youth into the justice system in the first place.”

“Community Health Action of Staten Island has been connecting people with the life-saving behavioral health, medical, and social services they need for over thirty years. We are proud to renew our commitment to finding equitable resolutions for New Yorkers who have been involved in the justice system through our partnership in the ATI program,” HRHCare Executive Director, CHASI and Chief Community Services Officer Diane Arneth said.

“Our criminal justice system is a maze—with countless entrances in, and very few out,” said The New York Foundling President and CEO Bill Baccaglini. “We are excited to be working with the City to increase the support we give our young people through our therapy and evidence-based approaches. Through this expansion, we can address the underlying causes of young people’s involvement with the justice system, help them avoid incarceration, and keep them on the path to a bright future.”