Alternatives to Incarceration
New York City is committed to safely shrinking the jail population and preventing unnecessary incarceration. A key component of reducing the court’s reliance on incarceration is offering Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs. ATI programs are diversion programs that are mandated by judges and provide participants with supportive services in their communities instead of a jail or prison sentence.
When Mayor de Blasio took office, the City funded ATI programs that diverted approximately 4,000 people from jail. In 2017, the City increased its investment in ATI programs to serve approximately 5,500 people, as well as to provide additional behavioral health services to ATI participants and housing resources for women enrolled in ATI programs. In 2020 with the passage of bail reform legislation, the City expanded its ATI programs even further to divert more people, including providing additional ATI capacity for individuals charged with violent and non-violent felonies.
To best meet the needs of justice-involved New Yorkers mandated to ATI programs, MOCJ consulted with various experts in the field both locally and nationally. MOCJ worked with a subcommittee of the City’s Diversion and Reentry Council, which is composed of over 100 members representing city government agencies, the courts, district attorneys, defense attorneys, non-profit service providers, members of the faith community, formerly incarcerated individuals, and advocates. MOCJ also received expert advice from Dr. Faye Taxman, a renowned expert in the field of criminology, from the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence (ACE!) at George Mason University.
Dr. Taxman’s Risk Need Responsivity (RNR) research identified the clinical and supportive service needs of the ATI population. The success of these programs on reducing re-offending and re-incarceration rests in large part on programs’ adherence to evidence based practices (including significant staff training and quality assurance practices), as well as programs’ provision of longer term, services to people on a voluntary basis following their completion of a court-mandated program.
The recommendations proposed by Dr. Taxman and her team were instrumental in helping the City develop new programming and service opportunities now available to ATI participants.
Through this latest expansion, the City has also increased ATI services citywide, including devoting particular resources to Queens and Staten Island, and has broadened the scope of services to provide more funding for youth and women-specific programs. Additionally, the expansion includes more funding for providers to continue serving ATI clients who require additional support in voluntary services following the completion of the ATI mandate. The expanded programs also have a greater focus on utilizing evidence-based practices, including providing additional training to service provider staff.
MOCJ is now funding 24 ATI programs run by 15 non-profit organizations. Services include mental health and substance use treatment, vocational and educational supports, and trauma-informed individual and group counseling tailored to participants’ needs, as well as supervision and regular reporting to the court. ATI programs reduce the court’s reliance on incarceration, lower the jail population, and allow people to remain in their communities while increasing stability and well-being.
Our Service Provider Partners:
• Center for Community Alternatives
• Center for Court Innovation
• Common Justice
• Community Health Action of Staten Island
• Exodus Transitional Community
• Fortune Society
• Housing Works
• NY Foundling
• Osborne Association
• Rising Ground-Steps to End Family Violence
• Urban Youth Alliance
• Wildcat-Fedcap—The Women’s Project
• Women’s Prison Association
In addition to research on ATI programs, Dr. Taxman and her team also conducted a large-scale RNR study of 197 programs in New York City that serve individuals at various stages of involvement in the criminal justice system including Supervised Release and reentry programs. This study outlines the clinical and supportive service needs of justice-involved individuals throughout NYC.