Innovative and effective alternatives to incarceration (ATIs) exist in isolated pockets throughout the country but need to be expanded and scaled. With limited established ATI guidelines and resources, leaders and practitioners are faced with the challenge of developing their own programs, often having to rely on volunteered staff time in order to develop and implement ATIs within their jurisdictions. This approach cannot guarantee full and equitable access for all eligible individuals and limits the potential for systemic change that supports public safety while reducing costs. While courts in some areas have been the primary beneficiaries of deep philanthropic investments to develop and expand ATIs, many courts have not had this same access to resources.
CJHD intends to connect jurisdictions interested in launching ATIs with jurisdictions that have well-established ATI programs and to support their adaptation and implementation, consistent with the specific needs of the interested jurisdictions. CJHD has the unique ability to serve as a connecter and facilitator in the establishment of ATI programs, guided by its notable Steering Committee of 20 current and former reform-minded judges and its executive director, an attorney directly impacted by incarceration who comes from government leadership and currently serves on the advisory board for the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, DOJ’s Justice Counts National Steering Committee, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance/CSG Reentry 2030 National Advisory board. These relationships and appointments provide an immense and engaged network to support CJHD’s ATI portfolio.
The outcomes of CJHD’s successful fall 2023 Rewriting the Sentence II Summit are also a testament to the organization’s convening and community building capacities. The Summit presented a unique opportunity for hundreds of federal and state judges, prosecutors, attorneys, pretrial and probation officials, members of the directly impacted community, nonprofit organizations and advocates, academics, and other criminal justice system stakeholders to gather to discuss strategies for expanding ATIs to foster a more effective criminal justice system. The Summit featured crucial discussions revealing the state of the data on ATIs; practical suggestions for establishing problem-solving courts, including mental health and drug courts; advice to judges, prosecutors, and other court practitioners on integrating evidence-based, trauma-informed programming into the toolbox of sentencing options; and stories from beneficiaries of ATIs, along with the judges and prosecutors who decided to offer or accept a diversion from incarceration. The Summit also centered the voices of survivors of harm, emphasized restorative approaches to justice, and included a live virtual panel with currently incarcerated people.
Following the Summit, CJHD gathered many responses from stakeholders across the field who requested support, guidance, and resources for their jurisdictions to establish or expand their ATI programs. Now, CJHD’s Assistance for ATIs Initiative seeks to develop and provide resources, recommendations, and implementation assistance to jurisdictions across the country, tailored to each individual need and landscape. In the coming months, CJHD looks to develop a training and technical assistance program that supports these jurisdictions in developing ATI models that have stakeholder buy-in, are sustainable, and informed by best practices.
To establish the Assistance for ATIs Initiative, and in response to significant interest from jurisdictions around the country, CJHD looks to develop the tools, reference guides, staffing, communications, partnerships, strategy, and infrastructure for the initiative to succeed. The work will focus on expanding the development and implementation of youth and young adult ATI programs, law enforcement-led diversion, deferred prosecution programs, as well as veteran, treatment, and other specialty courts across the nation, leading to safer, healthier, and more resilient communities. CJHD is uniquely situated, and the timing is ripe, to effectively impact the federal criminal courts.