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Updated on June 26, 2014

Alternatives to Incarceration

For over a century now, the predominant mechanism for punishing and treating serious and at other times, not so serious criminals in America has been placement into various correctional facilities. These facilities are alternatively known as reformatories, training schools, and correction centers. A report issued by the Juvenile Policy Institute titled “The Cost of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense” posted that in America alone, more than 95, 000 juveniles are held in juvenile correctional facilities at a cost of 6 million dollars per year. Earlier studies have indicated that juvenile correctional facilities may train these juveniles for adult prisons. This is why many states have begun to reduce the number of youths taken in these correctional facilities and are now rethinking on how to support and finance alternative options (Logan, 2014).

In recent perspective, there have been an increased quest to alternative means juvenile incarcerating in America. Among the reasons are the increased costs associated with this programs as well as the lack of a clear positive impact to these youths. This is apparently to a tax burden to American citizens who have to grapple with other issues as well. Further, research findings have clearly demonstrated that detention of juveniles have negative consequences to the social lives of these youths. Another reason note is that many nations in the world today do not subject their youths to incarceration programs. This aspect has raised the question on whether youth incarceration is neither inevitable nor necessary in the modern American society (MacKenzie, and Wilson, 2012).

Alternatives to Juvenile Incarceration Used in America today


Probation is a non-custodian court based program that is aimed at decreasing the rate at which criminals repeat offences. In this program, offenders are required to maintain total sobriety, meaning that they should not commit other offenses while under probation. The court also issues specific sanctions that are aimed at changing a probationer’s criminal behaviors (Porter, et al, 2012).

ATI Program

ATI program or the alternative to incarceration program is another alternative to incarceration. In this program, the court has an option of sending those who have committed felonies, or misdemeanors to this program instead of sending them to prison. There are four categories in these program, youth, drug abuses, women, and general population. The success rate for this program is 60%, which is fairly high. Those who fail in this program are sent to prison (Porter, et al, 2012).

Community Based Programs

In this program, the court gives sentences to offenders in undertaking community service that is not paid. This is meant to repay the society for the consequences of the offense committed by the defendant. In this situation, the court may order the offender to undertake community service a alongside other types of punishments such as fine, probation, or restitution (Foucault, 2011). This program is however, directed at offenders whose crimes are not so serious as to cause disharmony in the community.

Significance of Punishments that do not involve Imprisonment

One of the societal benefits derived from the use of other types of punishments other than incarceration is that the society will be reduced the burden of having to pay high taxes in keeping criminals in prison. Individually, the youth who could have been incarcerated will be absolved the “physical and emotional anguish” that often results in locking people in prison. Family members and the society will also guide them on how to reform their behaviors.


Foucault, M(2011). Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75255-2

Logan, C H (2014), Well Kept: Comparing Quality of Confinement in a Public and a Private

Prison . Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, 2013

MacKenzie, D. ; Wilson, D. B(2012), Effects of Correctional Boot Camps on

Offending. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 578 (2001): 126-43.

Porter, R; Lee, S., Lutz, M. (2012). Balancing Punishment and Treatment: Alternatives to Incarceration

in New York City. Federal Sentencing Reporter 24 (1): 26–29.


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    • Nyamweya profile image

      Silas Nyamweya 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks for your comment

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 3 years ago from Singapore

      Nice viewpoint