Alternatives to Incarceration
Federal, state, and local leaders are looking for innovative ways to improve public health and public safety outcomes, while reducing the costs of criminal justice and corrections. A number of innovative strategies can save public funds and improve public health by keeping low-risk, non-violent, drug-involved offenders out of prison or jail, while still holding them accountable and ensuring the safety of our communities.
The Obama Administration is committed to funding and evaluating the long-term effects of these innovative criminal justice and corrections interventions. Meanwhile, Federal agencies will continue to seek opportunities to expand smart probation and problem-solving court initiatives around the country in collaboration with state, local, and tribal agencies. In recognition of the considerable potential in cost savings, improved outcomes for offenders, and improved public safety, a growing number of state and local officials around the country are starting their own promising initiatives to break the cycle of drug use, crime, and incarceration.
Nearly every state is struggling with significant shortfalls in revenue and making significant cuts to spending in order to close budget gaps. In making these cuts, many states are focusing attention on corrections spending, one of the fastest growing lines in state budgets over the past two decades. Many states are pursuing a justice reinvestment approach, using data to determine what has been driving the growth in the prison population and how that growth might be stopped. In addition, small investments have been made in programs designed to reduce recidivism.
New policies have been enacted, slowing the growth of prison populations or even downsizing corrections systems, saving states hundreds of millions of dollars. A portion of those savings are being reinvested in community-based services and supports, including substance abuse treatment. But to have meaningful impact on behaviors that contribute to crime, recidivism, and substance abuse, states must focus on a handful of proven strategies that will maximize the impact of limited investments being made in the treatment of substance use disorders and community supervision.
- Council of State Governments
- Urban Institute Justice Policy Center
Pew Center for the States Public Safety Performance Project
Drug Market Intervention (DMI)
Overt drug markets are major threats to the health and safety of the communities in which they exist. They are magnets for crime, drug use, and addiction; draw local youth into the drug trade; and dramatically reduce the quality of life for area residents. One innovative, pre-arrest diversion strategy that shows promise in reducing the presence of drug markets is Drug Market Intervention (DMI). DMI is a multi-step, collaborative process that involves the combined efforts of law enforcement, prosecutors, influential community members, social services, reentry services, community corrections, faith-based organizations, and city management.
Links to External Sites on DMI:
- Bureau of Justice Assistance
- National Network for Safe Communities
- National Institute of Justice
- Michigan State University
John Jay College, Center on Crime Prevention and Control
Smart Probation Strategies
Probation officers in the United States often find themselves with large, unmanageable caseloads, while judges are forced to choose between sending repeat offenders away for long periods of time or ignoring probation or parole violations altogether. However, “smart” justice systems now offer better, cheaper, and more effective options. A growing number of states and localities are implementing strategies to improve outcomes and reduce the burden of drug-involved offenders on their criminal justice and corrections systems.
Smart Probation—Project HOPE
To date, the most well-studied smart probation approach is Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, which is showing promising results in reducing drug use and recidivism. Started in 2004, the HOPE program uses drug testing and swift, certain sanctions to change a probationer’s drug using and criminal behavior. Since 2009, more than 1,500 probationers (one in every six felony probationers in Oahu) have been enrolled in HOPE.
Smart Probation—The 24/7 Sobriety Project
The 24/7 Sobriety Project is a court-based program designed to reduce the re-offense rates of repeat Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenders. Started as a pilot project in South Dakota in 2005, the 24/7 Project requires participants to maintain full sobriety, meaning no use of alcohol or illegal drugs, in order to keep their driving privileges and stay out of jail.
Please see ONDCP’s fact sheet on Smart Probation (link below) for additional information on HOPE, 24/7, and other innovative programs: