Strategies, Values, and the Emerging Generation of Alternatives to Incarceration


This article argues that a new generation of alternatives to incarceration is emerging, and that this development presents important value questions which need to be confronted and resolved. The article seeks to identify dangers associated with recent reforms and to help initiate a search for values to guide the development of future programs. The first half of the article identifies major factors that have prompted recent changes in alternative programs, emphasizing the evidence that expansion of nonprison penal-ties historically has resulted in an increase in social control without a reduction in imprisonment. This part of the article also reviews shortcomings of earlier efforts to promote alternatives and then describes recent changes in strategy and in program features.

The last half of the article addresses some of the issues that are raised by the review of recent reforms. It considers the trend among reformers toward emphasizing pragmatic considerations in advocating and designing new programs. While increased strategic sophistication is needed, this part of the article focuses on hazards associated with current strategies. The arguments and tactics being employed present both the risk of generating anew set of objectionable programs and the risk of perpetuating the attitudes and expectations that remain the greatest obstacles to reduction of imprisonment. Thus, in the long run, current strategies may yield little impact on incarceration and may even result in expansion of the overall level of criminal justice intervention.

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