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New York City expands its Alternative to Incarceration programs

Expansion follows multi-year cooperative revamp of ATI

October 23, 2020 Editorial Staff

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice is expanding its Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs, increasing the number of providers and programs across the city through millions in new investments.

The expansion comes after a multi-year, cooperative effort by the city, policy experts, nonprofits and justice-impacted people to revamp the Office’s original ATI programming. Partnering with Dr. Faye Taxman, a nationally recognized criminologist at George Mason University, the city identified the key support and service opportunities that, if expanded, can lead to improved long-term results for program participants.

“New York City continues to be a national leader by investing in programs that help support the community, while continuing to safely reduce the number of people in jail,” said Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

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Dr. Taxman’s research shows that this evolution of the ATI model is likely to see a drop in ATI participants’ recidivism by an additional 15 percent. To achieve this, the city has committed to increasing the number of service providers from 11 to 15 and expanding the number of programs offered by service providers from 16 to 24 to better address participants’ unique needs.

This additional programming, the Mayor’s Office said, will not only mean an increase beyond the 2019 diversion capacity of 5,500 people, but will importantly offer new and expanded opportunities, including:

  • Increased capacity for felony cases: Bail reform has meant fewer people with misdemeanor cases are now facing prison sentences. To continue to reduce the jail population meaningfully, there is a need for additional alternatives to incarceration for felony cases, including for violent felony cases. These ATI programs are typically longer and more intensive than ATI programs for misdemeanors.
  • Increased capacity for voluntary post-mandate services: Dr. Taxman’s research emphasized that the length of individuals’ engagement in services should be driven by their needs, not the judicial mandate. She recommended that individuals receive relatively short mandates but be able to access services for as long as they need.
  • Evidence-based practices and quality assurance: Dr. Taxman recommended that the city’s ATI programming should more expansively incorporate evidence-based practices and quality assurance protocols into program models.
  • Additional substance use, mental health and physical health services: Dr. Taxman’s study identified the need for the city to increase these services in ATI programming due to the needs found among the ATI population.
  • Additional programming focused on women and young people: Dr. Taxman’s study found a need to increase ATI services for these particular populations given their unique needs, in particular behavioral health services for women and education/literacy and employment services for young people.

These new expansions will help more people stay out of jail, both during their participation in ATI programming and going forward, the Mayor’s Office said.

“Our team used simulation models to examine the clinical and supportive service needs of the ATI population. The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice used our models to increase ATI services across New York City and broaden the scope and duration of these services in order to ensure long-term results,” said Dr. Taxman.

In 2013, the city invested approximately $11 million in ATI programming, which has since expanded to approximately $19.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Following that expansion, the city saw a 29 percent decline in individuals admitted to jail on a city sentence — mostly those charged with misdemeanors — compared to the previous year.

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