Logo: Michelle Karshan and staff and participants of Alternative Chance/Chans Altenativ in Haiti
Based in Haiti, Alternative Chance is a self-help peer counseling program founded in 1996 by Michelle Karshan together with criminal deportees. The program advocates on their behalf prior to deportation, while incarcerated upon their arrival in Haiti, and during their integration into Haitian society. Alternative Chance challenges the injustices of US immigration policies and assists immigration attorneys in fighting against deportation. Current services include an orientation manual for adjusting to Haiti, emergency services, job counseling and some sponsorship in job training, wrongful deportation screening, an English lending library, peer counseling and referrals to services, alternatives to violence workshops, family mediation and counseling, and a public education campaign. Alternative Chance works in partnership with Health Through Walls providing limited healthcare in Haiti's National Penitentiary.
Background. Every year hundreds of Haitians are deported to Haiti due to criminal convictions in the U.S. or Canada, and after having finished serving their sentences. In 1996 the U.S. passed an anti-terrorist act which dramatically increased these deportations. Many of these young men and women grew up in the U.S. as legal residents but because they never became U.S. citizens they were deportable. Their convictions range from misdemeanors to felonies, are first-time offenders or repeat offenders, the majority relating to street-level drug sales.
Additionally, thousands of Haitian parents in the U.S., through fear or lack of access to services, are sending their troubled teenagers to live in Haiti with family or friends. While some of these teens straighten out while in Haiti, others are unable to adjust and their problems are compounded by isolation and poverty. These two groups -- the criminal deportees and the "throwbacks" quickly befriend each other as they usually have the same urban background.
Many of these young adults don't know Haiti's history and culture. Most don't know French and some barely speak Creole. They are discriminated against in Haiti and face enormous obstacles integrating into its society. Alternative Chance believes 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.
As the pioneering project in the Americas, we seek 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.
Through our public education campaign we seek to educate communities, governments, human rights and social service agencies in an effort to shape more humane policies.
Alternative Chance works in collaboration with
In alphabetical order:
African Caribbean Unity Club in NYS prisons
Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)
Americans for Immigrant Justice, formerly the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC)
APAAC (Haiti-based substance abuse program)
Boston College Post-Deportation Human Rights Project (Michelle Karshan (Alternative Chance) sits on its Advisory Board)
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Haiti Advocacy Working Group (member)
Haiti Justice Alliance of Northfield
Hastings College of the Law, University of California
Health through Walls, Inc.
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)
New York State Defenders Association
Office of Citizen Protection in Haiti
University of Miami Law School
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