Shelli B. Rossman
“In an effort to introduce approaches that reduce both recidivism and court costs, Philadelphia District Attorney (DA) Seth Williams spearheaded the development and testing of an alternative-to-incarceration program for first-time, nonviolent felony drug dealers facing one to two-year minimum mandatory state prison sentences. The program, known as The Choice is Yours (TCY), diverts these offenders away from prison into both 1) TCY court (essentially a problem-solving Philadelphia Municipal Court featuring a dedicated judge who has repeated contact with program participants to monitor their progress and motivate compliance using rewards and sanctions and 2) a suite of community-based social services and supports directed by JEVS Human Services (JEVS) and their partner agencies, the Pennsylvania Prison Society (PPS) and the Center for Literacy (CFL)” (p 1). Sections of this report include: introduction; the Choice is Yours program model—eligibility determinations, TYC Court, TYC community-based program (orientation phase, enrollment phase, and graduation), and the connection between stakeholders; TCY participants—who they are, early successes, program completion, program services, employment and education, and recidivism; key lessons learned from early implementation—communication, ongoing data collection, analysis, and reflection; and conclusion with final thoughts. The re-arrest rate for program graduates is 4.6 percent.