Proven Alternatives to Mass Incarceration of Families

By Michelle Walker

On June 20, 2018 President Trump signed Executive Order 13841, titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” which called for the temporary halt of family separation while the administration worked to identify places where they could incarcerate children alongside their parents. Incarcerating families, for any period of time, is detrimental to children’s long-term health and development, with consequences such as suicidal gestures and ideation, anxiety, sleeplessness, behavioral regressions, and loss of appetite.

Along with being less humane, family incarceration is more expensive than alternative to detention programs. In its Congressional Budget Justification for fiscal year 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated that it costs approximately $319.37, per person, per day, to house a person in a family detention center. In comparison, other alternative programs cost as low as 30 cents to $8.04 per person, per day. These alternative methods include family-based case management, community-based programs, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check-ins and home visits.

The Family Case Management Program

The Family Case Management Program, launched in 2016, assigned social workers to provide individual case management for asylum seekers, including:

  • orientation and education about participants’ rights and responsibilities;
  • individualized family service plans;
  • assistance with transportation logistics;
  • safe repatriation and reintegration planning for participants who are returning to their home countries.

In a 2017 DHS Office of the Inspector General review, ICE reported that 99% of participants across the five regions attended their ICE check-ins and appointments, and 100% attended their court hearings.

Despite the success of the program, the Family Case Management Program was discontinued by the Trump Administration in June 2017.

Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP II)

In 2009 ICE introduced the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP II), which utilized electronic ankle monitors, biometric voice recognition software, unannounced home visits, employer verification, and in-person reporting to supervise participants. The ISAP II model divided participants into “technology-only” or “full-services”—which included case management programs conducted by ICE. ISAP II was shown to be an effective alternative to detention, resulting in a 99.6% appearance rate at immigration court hearings, and a 91.1% compliance rate with court orders.

Other Non-Profit Community Management Programs

Vera Institute of Justice’s Appearance Assistance Program

  • From 1997-2000, the Vera Institute of Justice partnered with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to create the Appearance Assistance Program (AAP), which screened and placed participants into regular or intensive supervision tracks. Participants in the regular supervision track received reminders by telephone and letter of their court dates and legal obligations, while individuals in the intensive supervision track had mandatory personal and telephonic reporting, home visits, and were consistently monitored of their whereabouts and the progress of their case. Results showed that 91% of regular supervision participants attended their hearings.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) piloted multiple ATD programs including:

  • 2012: The Community Support Initiative conducted assessments and provided community-based case management, legal services, and housing. The Community Support Initiative ran from January 2012 until December 2015 and had a 97% appearance rate, costing between $7-$24 a day per individual in the program.
  • 2015: The Family Placement Alternatives program provided wrap-around services, including case management, housing, orientations on compliance, and access to legal representation. The Family Placement Alternatives program had a 97% appearance rate for immigration court, and cost $50 a day for the entire family— only 6% of the cost of family incarceration.

Published on June 27, 2018


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