Rebuilding People: The NY Program that Intends to Help One-time Offenders from Turning to Serial Offenders

Thanks to a program conceptualized and initiated by a NY-based organization, violators of the law now have a better chance of not becoming serial offenders in the future. The program is intended to provide an alternative to imprisonment for those who have broken the law once in their lives. The principle sound simple – the organization believes in rebuilding people and not prisons. The organizers of the program are looking into strengthening the future of the people who have been incarcerated once.

The Hope-Filled Approach

The program was set and launched by the organization called the Fortune Society. This organization’s vision is to create a society and a world where those who have been incarcerated are provided with means to become positive again and eventually become an integral and contributing members of the society. The organization which was established in 1967 strongly believes in giving the one-time and serial offenders the opportunity to succeed in life with help of continuum of care of informed and well-experienced professionals. Fortune Society helps shape the lives of 4500 men and women of New York to heal from the past convictions of misdemeanor, the felony, or any crimes — through their program models which have also been recognized by both international and local organizations.

The Alternatives to Incarceration Program

As the slogan of the program states, the ATIP offers ‘a fresh start’ to people who have made a mistake and are willing to begin anew. This is one of the rigorous programs of Fortune Society and is intended to achieve the following goals: 1.) to reduce the population in the jails or prisons, 2.) to help the nation save millions of taxpayers’ money, 3.) and most importantly, 3.) the program intends to rebuild the lives of incarcerated individuals and teach and lead them to live productive and crime-free lives. In short, this is designed to zap the increasing number of serial offenders.

Those who are under the ATI programs are supervised strictly so as to ensure that they fully grasp the repercussions of becoming serial offenders. Moreover, they are provided with life-stabilizing services that these men and women of New York truly need. For those who have successfully completed the program, they will receive sentences sans further incarceration such as community services and probation.

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Forms of Alternatives Provided

It is the objective of the ATI program and other non-profit organization to ensure that the alternatives used to help one-time offenders will be beneficial to the community. These programs also entails viable measures to treat those criminals who are inflicted with some kind of addiction, those who are mentally unstable, and those who in dire need of rehabilitation. These alternatives are also designed to reduce the increasing cost of prisons and jails. More importantly, they also prevent the first-time offenders from becoming serial offenders. It is crucial to point out, however, that courts should be given the power to apply these recidivism-reducing and cost-effective options in order to truly maximize the results and benefits of these alternatives.

Community Corrections and Probation

These alternatives are offered in order to allow the offenders to stay in the community where they belong. However, a certain limitation to their obligations and freedom are included as well. By ensuring that these convicted individuals follow the probation or community corrections, they become less likely to commit crimes repeatedly and turn into serial offenders. Conditions stipulated under the community corrections or probation include, but not limited to, imposing house arrest during prescribed time or periods of the day, remaining alcohol or drug-free, completing community services, meeting the probation officer regularly, and undergoing mental health or substance abuse treatment. These measures can lure these convicted individuals out of committing additional crimes and becoming serial offenders.

While this alternative is designed to reduce the number of serial offenders, there are still those who are unable to complete or meet all the stipulated conditions. There are also consequences waiting for the offenders who refuse or unable to comply with the conditions provided in his or her probation. For one, the probation can be automatically revoked which means that the person will be imprisoned. Depending on the report provided by the probation officer, the sentencing of the individual may be carried out.

Halfway Houses

This is another alternative which is also often referred to as residential reentry centers. The halfway houses function as an option for intermediate housing. This offers a place for those offenders who are have completed a prison sentence and are returning to the community from the prison. These halfway houses are also used as an alternative to prison if the offender’s sentence proves to be brief. These places also offer a better option for those who have been released early from prison on parole but violated a parole condition or those who have become serial offenders. By sending these individuals to halfway houses rather than back to prison again for prolonged sentences, they will be better observed, monitored, and helped.

Electronic Home Confinement

Most of the time, those who are confined at home are required to wear an Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM) device but are allowed to remove it or be away from the monitoring device when they need to go to pre-approved sites such as the workplace, courts or counseling. The EHM usually comes in the form of an ankle bracelet and is designed to send signals to a specific transmitter. This will then notify the officers of the whereabouts of the first-time or serial offenders. The individuals under home confinement regardless whether first-time offenders or serial offenders may likewise be required to undergo random or regular drug tests. Violation of the conditions of the home confinement alternative may likewise result in prolonged sentencing.

Boot Camp

Another form of alternative to sentencing is through boot camp type program. The programs entail comprehensive activities that may help prevent one-time offenders to committing crimes again and become serial offenders. These boot camp programs cover regular physical exercises, educational classes, regular individual counseling, and GED preparation courses. While the boot camps are no longer applied in federal prisons, they are still applied in state or county jails and some state prisons

As with military boot camps, the attendees of the boot camp programs are likewise required to comply with strict disciplinary codes. These include short hairs, standing before their designated officers, as well as using honorifics such as ‘sir’ to their seniors. For those who attend the boot camps and are able to successfully complete a program may be eligible for earlier release to parole. This is also possible for offenders who are able to find a job. After release, they may still be put on parole to ensure that they will not become repeat offenders or serial offenders in time.

Role of Nonprofit Organizations

The members of the different non-profit organizations, such as the Fortune Society, offer several services to their clients. As for the said organization, they are able to implement the Alternative to Incarcerations programs with the help of their comprehensive services which include education, housing, substance, and alcohol abuse treatment, mental health services, etc. Other groups are also able to provide customized services depending on the conditions and need of the client. Other therapies which can be provided include Seeking Strength therapy, Moral Reconation Therapy, and Parenting and Relational Therapies. All of these are designed to prevent relapse and enable first-time offenders the massive impact of becoming serial offenders.

True to its vision of ‘rebuilding people’, the Alternatives to Incarceration are now used to help these individuals recognize and understand the errors they commit and help them to make better decisions and amends. They help reformulate the lives of the people who are at risk of becoming serial offenders. They are assisted in reshaping their lives into healthier ones both physically and mentally. They are also taught on how to handle situations better and how to cultivate a virtuous life they deserve and different from the life of serial offenders.