Community Solutions: Alternatives to Incarceration

This panel examined policy alternatives to incarceration, discussing a range of programs that can both serve as alternatives to pretrial incarceration and facilitate re-entry and rehabilitation for those who have been incarcerated.

Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform at the MacArthur Foundation, spoke about a recent initiative confronting the overuse of local jails to incarcerate individuals before trial. Garduque argued that addressing this problem would actually increase public safety by saving funds that could instead be applied to education, mental health services, and workforce training. She noted that these solutions would help improve outcomes for individuals caught up in the local criminal justice system.

Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, spoke to a range of current issues facing individuals currently on probation in Texas. He noted that the probation office’s budgetary reliance on probation fees disincentivizes early termination of exemplary offenders. Further, Levin stressed the importance of sealing records in order to make ex-offenders more competitive with the rest of the labor pool. David Camic, a defense attorney and senior fellow at the Illinois Policy Institute, offered a counterpoint from his practical experience, noting that those incarcerated pretrial are often in a better negotiating position at the time of sentencing and are unable to commit further crimes that would lead to even worse outcomes.

Norris Henderson, founder and executive director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, provided insight from his experience helping impoverished communities navigate the criminal justice system and advocate for reform. He said that Hurricane Katrina ironically operated to benefit reform initiatives in New Orleans because of the damage that occurred to existing jails, thus creating a unique opportunity for reform.

Nick Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice, moderated the panel and closed by prompting panelists to further detail diversion programs that do not require recourse to the legal system. To learn more about how you can get involved, please visit the Charles Koch Foundation’s Request for Proposals page.

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