Alternative Solutions: Washington Parental Alternative Sentencing Program Highlights

Washington State has been the leader in the creation of an alternative sentencing program that supports families and the numbers available in their most recent “Fact Sheet” (available here) show why need to keep moving in this direction. Not only are a majority of parents successful in the program, many children are able to avoid being placed in foster care and unncessary separation.

Under the Family Offender Sentencing Alternative (Courtside Diversion) and Community Parenting Alternative (Early Release), Community Corrections Officers operate more like social workers and have a focus on interacting with the families and build support within the families. Specifically, the program uses the Five Protective Factors for Strengthening Families Model: parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children.

Advocates and legislators are looking to expand the law as they feel it is limited in it’s scope and it could help even more families. These suggested changes can serve as a model for states looking to create their own programs.

With 2.7 million children with a parent behind bars and with over half of individuals in prison being parents, this is a proven model that allows us to hold individuals accountable and also recognize that these individuals are more than their crimes— they are parents, caregivers, breadwinners, community members and much, much more. Alternatives will also allow us to address incarceration’s impact on our communities as a whole and reduce the negative affects on children of incarcerated parents.

 

 

Lillian M. Hewko

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