Nationally, communities use rehabilitative programs for people in the criminal justice system 70% of the time and jail only 30% of the time. In Spokane County, it is just the opposite – we incarcerate 70% of the people and provide alternative programs to only 30%. Alternatives to incarceration can save taxpayer funds, create safer neighborhoods and end the cycle of revolving door jail sentences. Jail is far more expensive and less effective than alternative programs. So in order to create safer communities at an affordable price we need to shift away from outdated systems.
Alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders include substantial expansion of drug and alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, and education and employment training programs that will reduce crime and preserve jail beds for persons who are a clear and present danger to our community. The expanded use of electronic home monitoring, work release, day reporting, and active community supervision are safe, more effective, and less expensive alternatives to excessive incarceration. These alternatives would benefit people of color, people with disabilities, and the mentally ill who are disproportionally impacted by our current criminal justice system. Most importantly, alternatives to incarceration can create lasting positive changes in the lives of people currently in the system and create a safer community for all.
Greater Spokane Progress, a network of which PJALS is a member, is forming a campaign committee to organize for alternatives to incarceration in Spokane County. For more information or to get involved, please contact Anne Martin, GSP Director, at [email protected] or 624-5657.