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Monday, 15 December 2014

Discussing "alternatives to incarceration" for women

Three Boston, Massachusetts-based criminal justice experts weigh in on “alternatives to incarceration.” These are programs meant to keep people in the community in lieu of jail or prison time while they complete certain mandates, such as substance abuse or mental health counseling, anger management, parenting classes or other educational classes, and sometimes receive assistance with job training or placement. But is the specific phrase “alternatives to incarceration” the best choice?

--Dr. Susan Sered argues that incarceration is neither necessary nor useful for most women in jails and prisons. She is in favor of policies that minimize incarceration, but she says she is concerned that most "alternatives to incarceration" buy into the idea that the women involved are in fact criminals who require reform and supervision rather than jobs, housing and respect. Dr. Sered's September 2014 book "Can't Catch a Break" documents the lives of 40 women and their post-incarceration lives.

--Professor Wallace Holohan runs the Prisoners' Rights Clinic at Northeastern University, and he has more than 30 years experience in law. The clinic provides to people incarcerated in Massachusetts free legal assistance regarding disciplinary charges, parole applications and parole revocation. He believes in "alternatives to incarceration" that provide schooling, vocational training, and counseling for women and men.

--Probation Officer Yvonne Nelson from Dorchester District Court has worked with probationers for 19 years. She said she believes the US over-incarcerates and that "alternatives to incarceration" help give the courts more options in order to help people stay connected with their communities.

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