The current study evaluates the effectiveness of Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs in the federal criminal justice system across thirteen federal districts, particularly their impact on post-program recidivism. It explores the development and expansion of ATI programs, which offer defendants charged in federal court the opportunity to participate in a formal judge-led multi-disciplinary team program that emphasizes community-based rehabilitative approaches that target root causes of criminal behavior. These programs emphasize treatment over punishment while holding defendants accountable using proscribed protocols of sanctions and incentives. Depending on the rules of the individual program, defendants who successfully complete the program receive a reduced or non-incarcerate sentence, or have their charges dismissed. The study utilizes data from the participating districts to compare the outcomes of ATI participants with those of matched counterparts who did not participate in the programs. In addition to examining outcomes of defendants while on pretrial supervision, the study examines re-arrests for new criminal behavior one, two, and three years after defendants’ exit from the program. The results highlight the potential effectiveness of ATI programs in reducing both pretrial detention and post-sentence incarceration without expense to community safety. We emphasize the need for further research to validate and generalize the findings and suggest that ATI programs, given sufficient resources and policy support, could play a significant role in transforming the criminal justice system by prioritizing rehabilitation over incarceration.

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