Civil Alternatives offers New Yorkers issued civil summons the option to perform community service instead of paying a fine.
Civil Alternatives is a crucial component of a larger effort to decriminalize selected offenses in New York City. The community service options developed by the Center and handed off to OATH promote civic engagement and an understanding of community harm. Participants fulfill their obligation through an e-learning module and/or community beautification projects.
The e-learning module is a one- or two-hour intervention for quality-of-life offenses. Offered in seven different languages, it outlines the summons process and encourages users to avoid receiving them. Through a collaborative design process, the modules employ the principles of procedural justice to ensure participants are provided with a voice and treated with dignity and respect. Eventually, the module will be available online, so that anyone who receives a summons will have the option to complete the e-learning module from their home, local library, or any reliable internet connection. This is a meaningful step to democratize the accessibility of alternatives to fines and fees in New York City.