Alternatives to Incarceration

Photo Courtesy of: Clara Vannucci

Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) , STEPS’ first program, was founded in 1986 and is currently run by a small interdisciplinary team of social workers, advocates, and lawyers who provide clinical, legal, advocacy, and case management services. We take on cases in all five boroughs where defendants are victims of domestic violence and have an open criminal case related to their histories of abuse. Upon intake, all clients are assigned an Advocate-Counselor who will work with them to develop a treatment plan that best meets their needs. 

We work closely with the courts and the client’s attorney. We accompany clients to court and monitor their progress, providing compliance reports as requested. The program is free of charge and provides services in English and Spanish. We work with clients in our East Harlem or Brooklyn offices, in the field, at Court and at Rose M. Singer Center, the woman’s jail at Riker’s Island.



Eligible ATI clients have:

  • A history of domestic violence or sexual abuse as an adult or in childhood
  • Been arrested on criminal charges related to this abuse
  • Willingness to participate in the program a minimum of 4 months for misdemeanor cases and 6 months for felony cases.

The ATI intake process includes a preliminary assessment (by phone or in person) and a screening interview (in person) which can be conducted at our offices in East Harlem or Brooklyn, at Court, on Riker’s Island or at a referring agency.

If a client is not accepted into the STEPS ATI program, the client and the referring agency are notified. The client is referred to appropriate STEPS domestic violence programs or other services in the community.

Follow the links provided, below, to read about our Riker’s-based work:

  • New York Times published multimedia article regarding our Riker’s events

  • New York Daily News published  article regarding Holiday festivities to benefit the women on Riker’s Island
  • New York Daily News published article regarding the work a former STEPS Intern (now a volunteer), who developed a book drive to benefit the women on  Riker’s Island

  • Queens Tribune Online article, “Women Behind Bars Get Hope From Books”




Individual Counseling: Short-term individual domestic violence and supportive counseling is available to address issues in greater depth as well as to assist with additional referrals or safety planning as needed.

Legal AdvocacyBased on initial legal needs assessment, individual treatment plans may include court and legal advocacy for client’s who have collateral legal issues related to their history of abuse including Family Court matters, immigration issues, and housing concerns 

Groups: We provide weekly day and evening groups at our East Harlem and Brooklyn offices and at Rose M. Singer Center on Riker’s Island. Our group curricula are proprietary to STEPS and have been developed and refined over the past 24 years. Clients who attend 10 out of 12 group sessions receive a Certificate of Completion which is recognized by the Courts. Return carfare is provided as are snacks. A limited number of childcare spots are also available. Groups are available in English and Spanish depending on need. 



ATI counselors travel to Rose M. Singer Center, the women’s prison on Riker’s Island, to work with incarcerated clients on an almost daily basis. In addition to facilitating three events for women incarcerated here – a Thanksgiving Assembly in November, a Family Reunification Event in December with family members, and a Mother’s Day Celebration in May – ATI conducts ongoing domestic violence programming at Rose M. Singer. Women are referred to participate in these groups by word of mouth, by attorneys and social workers, by other service providers at Riker’s or because they are existing ATI clients.