As awareness is growing of the costs (both financial and human) of mass incarceration, we’re hearing more about alternatives to incarceration. These alternatives include various sorts of electronic monitoring, intensive supervision, drug courts and mandated drug treatment.
While I am in favor of almost any plan that keeps non-violent people out of jails and prisons, I think it’s important to take a critical look at what is meant by “alternatives to incarceration” and how these actually play out given the broader contexts of dominant American ideas concerning crime, justice, gender and race. Do ATI really challenge the assumptions regarding who is ‘guilty’ and what it means to be ‘fixed’? Without fundamental changes in how we view human rights and relationships, ATI can too easily become a way to broaden the net of people caught in the correctional system.
This video clip by Meredith Berg includes some of my thoughts as well as comments by two proponents of ATI, one who works with a small not-for-proft organization and one who works in the correctional system.
You can read more about the thin line between ‘punishing’ and ‘treating’ here:
Incarceration by Any Other Name: A Return to the Cuckoo’s Nest?