Why Alternative Directions?
Alternative Directions’ (AD) programs provide opportunities for offenders to make positive changes in their lives. Each service we provide targets risk factors that keep offenders in a cycle of criminal behavior. When offenders change behavior and decide to engage in a prosocial lifestyle they can gain financial independence, earn the respect of their families, their communities and learn to respect themselves.
Alternative Directions was founded in December of 1979 as the Sunshine One-Way House for Men by a group of individuals from area churches. The program was originally established as a diversion from incarceration for non-violent property offenders who needed assistance in structuring their lives, learning proper work habits and continuing their education. The original facility for the program, called the Shanahan Mansion, was located on the northeast side of Grand Rapids and was purchased through contributions from various foundations and corporations. The name of the organization was changed from the Sunshine One-Way House for Men to Alternative Directions in 1982. The program remained in the Shanahan Mansion until 1986 when the former Luther Home was purchased at 1706 S. Division. This allowed Alternative Directions to grow from a 20-bed to 60+ bed facility that now offers multiple services to offenders from all over Michigan. We remain committed to providing quality services that are evidence-based and cost effective compared to incarceration. We also remain committed to our long-standing relationship with the faith-based community.
Our Role in the Restorative Justice Process
We believe Restorative Justice is a process that focuses on repairing the harm done by criminal acts and bringing healing to all those impacted by crime. For this to work, the criminal justice system, offenders, victims of crime and community members must be involved.
In the Restorative Justice process, accountability for one's actions is a key concept. This includes taking responsibility for the wrong done, working toward restoring the harm done where possible, and facing whatever consequences result from the criminal offense. Our residents are encouraged to take personal responsibility for their actions from the moment they walk through our door. During their stay, residents are required to perform community service work and make payments toward restitution, if owed. Alternative Directions offers a wide range of services designed to address challenges that often lead to a return to criminal behavior. Our hope is that residents are reentering their communities with a better chance at living productive, prosocial lives.
Our residents have the opportunity to take part in faith-based groups and activities that approach Restorative Justice in a holistic way; one that reflects biblical principles by emphasizing the importance of repairing the harm caused by or revealed by criminal behavior. Common themes of our men's fellowship group, entitled "Alpha," are healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Our Community Outreach Coordinator, Pastor Jack Kooreman, alongside our dedicated volunteers work to create a supportive environment where these themes are discussed, learned and embraced.
Alternative Directions provides residential and other services to counties all across Michigan. Our goal is to provide not only alternatives to incarceration, but to provide a productive environment that encourages personal responsibility and accountability. In the 2017 Fiscal Year, we provided residential services to 278 offenders.
In FY 2016/2017 our 278 residents:
- provided 14,667 hours of service to the program and the community
- earned $744,248 in gross wages
- paid $174,036 in federal, state, and local taxes
- contributed $145,481 to court obligations
- paid $16,277 in restitution to the victims of their crimes
- paid $19,869 in child support
Also in FY 2016/2017:
- 126 of our residents obtained employment within 3 weeks of enrollment
- 66 of those residents were employed within the first 2 weeks
- 94 residents who entered the program without their GED or HS Diploma attended 2,588 hours of GED preparatory classes on-site
- Of those 94 residents, 138 GED tests were taken