Logo: Michelle Karshan and staff and participants of Alternative Chance/Chans Altenativ in Haiti
Image: Alternative Chance 2008 Human Rights Award to Prof. Daniel Kanstroom
Alternative Chance awarded its 2008 Human Rights Award to Prof. Daniel Kanstroom for founding the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project at Boston College's Center for Human Rights and International Justice. (Photo by Kesler Pierre)
Michelle Karshan, Executive Director, and Renal Durosier, who was deported to Haiti without seeing a judge, and lived there as a criminal deportee for three years until he proved he was a U.S. citizen, present Alternative Chance 2008 Human Rights Awards. Mr. Durosier was a participant and a teacher at Alternative Chance in Haiti.
Dramatically increasing the rate of deportation, the 1996 U.S. Anti-Terrorist Act forced deportation of all non-citizens with criminal convictions even those who turned their lives around 20 years before.
Every year hundreds of Haitians with criminal convictions are deported to Haiti from the U.S., Canada, and other countries. Their crimes range from first-time to repeat, non-violent to violent, misdemeanors to felonies. Most were convicted for drug-related offenses, grew up in the U.S., were legal permanent residents, and fulfilled their sentences in the U.S. through prison time or probation.
Many Criminal Deportees arriving in Haiti don't know Haiti's history or culture, do not speak French, barely speak Creole, and have histories of substance abuse. They are discriminated against and face enormous obstacles to integrating in Haiti. Some suffer from serious medical or psychiatric conditions, and many have no remaining family in Haiti.
Responding to this need, in March 1996, Michelle Karshan, together with Criminal Deportees, founded Alternative Chance, the first program in the world solely dedicated to the integration of Criminal Deportees. Alternative Chance immediately opened an on-going dialogue with media, NGOs & the government of Haiti.
Alternative Chance believes that Criminal Deportees already served their sentences in the U.S., or elsewhere, and that with proper support and resources can self-actualize and lead non-criminal lives. Criminal Deportees, who spent significant time in the U.S. and Canada, have the benefit of education, training, and democratic orientation and, with assistance, can become productive members of society and active participants in building a democratic and modern society in Haiti.
Founded in 1996, and dedicated to the reintegration of Criminal Deportees in Haiti, Alternative Chance seeks to reduce crime, violence, substance abuse, and gang-related behaviors. We help integrate, educate, empower, inspire and give hope in a way that will ultimately lead to self-sufficiency.
Alternative Chance has seen that the majority of criminal deportees in Haiti want to upgrade their lives through schooling, job training, counseling, and the support of a caring community.
Since 1996, in an effort to shape more humane policies, our public education campaign successfully reaches communities, governments, prisons, human rights and social service agencies about the complexities and injustices of criminal deportation to Haiti. (See our website for media coverage, advisories, reports, information sheets, human rights info and Where Am I? A Guide to Adjusting to Haiti.)
Image: Alternative Chance counselor Harry Desire
Harry Desire (right), an Alternative Chance health layperson, works with Dr. John P. May of Health through Walls in Haiti's National Penitentiary. Mr. Desire was also a recipient of Alternative Chance's 2008 Human Rights Award. (Photo by Michelle Karshan)
Counseling, orientation to Haiti, crisis intervention, job readiness & training, HIV/AIDS & TB education, counseling and training, internet/email classes, family linking, wrongful deportation screening; and, our partnership with Health through Walls, supporting health care in Haitis National Penitentiary, are the core of our program.
Image: Chicago Tribune photo of criminal deportees detained in police station holding cells
Haitis courts ruled that it is illegal to imprison Criminal Deportees arriving in Haiti. However, the Haitian government continues to detain deportees in police station holding cells without food, drinking water, medical or mental health care, or due process of law. These holding cells dont have sinks, toilets or beds. They are grossly overcrowded, unsanitary and life threatening. (Photo taken by Chicago Tribune for their article New life is no life for U.S. ex-cons in Haiti.)
Alternative Chance outreaches in detention cells searching for Criminal Deportees who have serious medical or mental health problems and advocates for their release. We also distribute toiletries and contact deportees families in the U.S.
Image: Family celebrates immigration court ruling
Family celebrates immigration court ruling to release their loved one who suffers from multiple medical problems. Michelle Karshan had provided expert witness declaration to the court. (Krome Detention Center in rear)
We continue to be a resource and support for Criminal Deportees and those facing criminal deportation from the U.S. or Canada. We provide services to their families, the legal community, human rights & immigration rights organizations, policy groups, universities, media, Haitian & international agencies, NGOs & community groups.
Through Michelle Karshan, our Executive Director, we provide expert witness services describing the conditions of Criminal Deportees in Haiti. Her testimony has been cited in numerous Immigration Board and Circuit Court decisions. The Alternative Chance website has resource pages to assist attorneys and respondents regarding Convention Against Torture (CAT) claims and other relevant issues in challenging deportation to Haiti. Ms. Karshan is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University School of Law and is a founding member on the Board of the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College.
The great majority of Criminal Deportees do not have the opportunity to see their children once they are deported. This is a tragedy both for the deported parent as well as his or her children. Banished for life, and apart from their loved ones, Criminal Deportees can experience depression and despair that can lead to negative activities.
Alternative Chance is working towards its first Family Camp a retreat reuniting parent and their U.S. citizen child. These structured visits to Haiti will provide emotional bridge building and cultural activities. The aim of this project is to develop a sustained relationship between parents and their child(ren). We hope that this family camp a first of its kind will be a model that we will share with interested NGOs and governments internationally.
Image: Alternative Chance 2008 Human Rights Award to Pace University law student Matthew Blaisdell
Alternative Chance awarded its 2008 Human Rights Award to Pace University law student Matthew Blaisdell for his unique and exhaustive role in furtherance of Haiti CAT (Convention Against Torture) claims. (Photo by Kesler Pierre)
See all photos of the Alternative Chance 3rd Annual Awards & Fundraising Dinner taken by Kesler Pierre
Alternative Chance holds an annual fundraising benefit where human rights awards are given to those who have significantly, continuously and courageously supported the rights of Haitians facing criminal deportation or those already deported.
Image: Alternative Chance 2008 Human Rights Awards
Alternative Chance Annual Awards Benefit presented Human Rights Awards to two prestigious law firms (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP)that dedicated pro bono representation to indigent Haitian criminal aliens fighting deportation. (Photo by Kesler Pierre)
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