Our knowledge about what works and what doesn’t in the field of justice reform has grown significantly in recent decades, but our willingness to pilot new initiatives has not kept pace. This article focuses on one evidence-based, but under-utilized, intervention: alternatives to incarceration for people facing felony charges.
Most alternative-to-incarceration programs strictly limit who can participate, focusing on lower-level charges and people with clear substance use or mental health treatment needs. The research, however, is clear: these programs would be more effective if they served a wider variety of charges and addressed a wider variety of needs, from employment to familial support.
This article highlights a pioneering New York City court, of which the Center for Justice Innovation is a partner. The Manhattan Felony Alternative-to-Incarceration Court builds on existing problem-solving court models, but serves all types of felony cases, including violent offenses. Its individualized and collaborative approach offers a practical and impactful model for reformers across the country.