An organization that prioritizes reintegration over incarceration in Syracuse and across the state is hoping to build on 40 years of success. The Center for Community Alternatives is holding a virtual event Thursday evening where people can learn more about their programs. Executive Director David Condliffe says they want the criminal justice system to be motivated by hope, not fear.
"Too much of our decision making is based on fear without understanding the successes that have occurred and and can occur. We want the community to be safe, and want to make sure we don't take undue risks, and so does the court."
Condliffe says the CCA tries to make sure prosecutors and judges understand the full background of the person and their strengths, not just the offense and their challenges. He says the goal should be how a person can become productive in the community, as one judge did with a 14-year-old facing a gang assault charge.
"Instead of having this person wind up with a five-year stint of state incarceration, they were given probation and youthful offender status. Which meant instead of the taxpayer spending almost $400,000 in incarceration costs, they spent $2,500. And that person is now attending college in the community."
Condliffe acknowledges that’s a dramatic example, and that not every case will end that way. He says every situation is different, and they try to design a plan that meets the needs of the offender, the community, and the victims of the crime. Condliffe says more judges are asking for similar interventions, and prosecutors are increasingly using this approach in their offices. He says prison never produces a positive result.
"They wind up having a very bad opinion of themselves, and they wind up having new challenges when they come out, which we also work with. We try to get them back into the community on a productive path instead of having them to go to shelters and have more challenging lives ahead of them."
Thursday evening's event called “Pathways to Reintegration” begins at 6. It’s free but people are invited to make a donation.