Responding to Felony Cases without Jail
Reducing Incarceration for Felony Cases—Courts + Community can Provide Support
We cannot meaningfully address the overuse of incarceration without new responses to felonies and violent crimes. Our collaboration with New York City, courts, and communities to expand alternatives to incarceration has shown that people charged with more serious crimes can be safely supervised in the community rather than sent to jail and prison. Brooklyn Justice Initiatives and Manhattan Justice Opportunities are two examples of programs that bridge the legal system and community-based social services, centering human dignity and treating people with respect and support to reach positive outcomes.
The key to the success of these programs is understanding each participant’s specific needs and working with New York City's rich array of community-based providers and social service resources to offer them support.
Alternatives to incarceration in more serious cases help reduce jail and prison populations and increase public safety by connecting people to the support they need. Prioritizing services and support—such as mental health and substance use treatment, job training, housing, and parenting support—contributes to reducing crime going forward. In New York, there is evidence this philosophy is taking hold. With judges and prosecutors turning to these alternatives more and more, referrals to Manhattan Justice Opportunities have more than doubled this year compared to last.
Participants who successfully complete programming avoid between two and four years of incarceration, on average. Community-based programming costs significantly less than detention, and, more importantly, spares people the long-term destabilizing effects of incarceration. About half of successful participants avoid a criminal record altogether.
You can listen to a young court participant share their experience with the program on this episode of our New Thinking podcast.