Alternatives To Incarceration

On May 21, 2012, the Center, in partnership with the Federal Bar Council, hosted a program regarding incarceration alternatives.

This program focused on pre-sentence and post-incarceration programs that afford defendants, particularly those with substance abuse problems, the opportunity to shorten or avoid prison sentences or curtail terms of supervision.  The states, often assisted by the Department of Justice, have been leading the way in implementing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.  The downturn in the economy and the states’ obligation to balance their budgets have spurred innovations that spare the great expense of incarceration -- and the offenders and their families the serious adverse effects of prison terms -- while at the same time enhancing public safety by reducing recidivism and improving offenders’ employment prospects.

The federal system has lagged behind the states, but it is slowly increasing its focus on both pre- and post-incarceration programs that can reduce prison terms and periods of post-incarceration supervision.  For example, the cabinet-level federal interagency Reentry Council was established in 2011 to advance effective public safety and prisoner reentry strategies; and some federal courts have established pre-sentence and post-sentence “drug courts” that provide judicial supervision of offenders with substance abuse problems, with the incentive of reduced prison or probation terms. 

Panelists included James M. Cole, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States; United States Sentencing Commissioner Dabney Friedrich; the Honorable Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge for the District of Connecticut; the Center's Faculty Director, Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy Rachel E. Barkow; and First Assistant District Attorney, Kings County, New York, Ann J. Swern.  The event was moderated by the Honorable John Gleeson, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York.

Read Deputy Attorney General Cole's remarks here.

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