The efficient use of alternative to incarceration programs (ATIs) is an important part of an effective criminal justice system, playing a key role in: (A) reducing criminal recidivism; (B) maximizing the use of state resources; (C) depressurizing the prison system; and (D) disrupting the use of prisons for organized crime expansion. This is often apparent in the context of those whose alleged criminal activity is related to an underlying substance use disorder, although it applies in other contexts, as well. Incarceration is unlikely to prevent recidivism in such instances, as it does not address the underlying problem.
Decades of empirical research demonstrate that when properly implemented, ATIs can break this cycle of recidivism. Nonetheless, a key barrier to implementing ATIs effectively in the Western Hemisphere (Alt: in the Americas), including Colombia, is the lack of reliable information about these individuals' specific background and needs to allow officials to detect underlying factors, including but not limited to substance use disorders driving the alleged criminal behavior; permit more informed decisions about what ATI programs would best fit their specific circumstances; and identify related social services that could benefit them.
To address this issue, the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission is collaborating with Colombia to pilot informational assessment instruments within the criminal justice system. In partnership with a team of experts from the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), an assessment instrument is being developed and piloted with selected justice-involved individuals post-sentencing, to better determine what alternative programs might help with their rehabilitation and reduce recidivism. After pilot testing, the instrument will be adjusted based on initial outcomes, and will undergo a more thorough validation study before being implemented at scale.