HD69 - Alternatives to Incarceration

  • Published: 1994
  • Author: Virginia State Crime Commission
  • Enabling Authority: House Joint Resolution 631 (Regular Session, 1993)

Executive Summary:
House Joint Resolution 631, sponsored by Delegate Bernard S. Cohen of Arlington and passed by the 1993 General Assembly, directed the Crime Commission to study alternatives to incarceration. The major objectives delineated in the study resolution were to increase diversion for first-time, non-violent offenders-, make more diverse programs and treatments available to inmates; and increase the involvement of the public sector in educational and employment programs.

An exhaustive review of the literature revealed that, in Virginia alone, some 43 studies dealing with alternatives to incarceration have been initiated since 1913, thirteen of these studies are ongoing or were completed during 1993. The final report of the Governor's Commission on Violent Crime as well as the Department of Corrections' Master Plan will to great extent accomplish the objectives set forth in HJR 631. Consequently, the Commission recommended that the findings and recommendations contained in these two reports be reviewed by the membership.

During the course of this study, the Commission also discovered, although there is no statewide system of alternatives to incarceration in Virginia, many such programs are operated by private and public agencies at the local level. As a result, the Commission recommended that an. inventory of local alternative programs and punishment options be developed and included as an appendix to the final report on HJR 631. Additionally, the Commission, in its final report, recognized the importance of community participation in corrections issues and encouraged jurisdictions to seek local solutions to jail crowding, including alternative programs.

Finally, the Commission considered target populations for alternative programs and found that the Criminal Justice Research Center is currently developing a risk assessment tool to help judges determine who would be appropriate for such punishment options. According to data compiled by the Senate Finance Commission, over 1,000 non-violent offenders from FY92 were on the borderline in the application of judicial sentencing guidelines. The Commission recommended that, once the, risk assessment tool is in place, these borderline offenders be considered for alternative programs.