JDAI/Detention Reform

The Annie E. Casey Foundation launched the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in 1992 to demonstrate that communities could safely reduce their reliance on secure detention of young people.  JDAI has four goals:

  • To eliminate the inappropriate or unnecessary use of secure detention
  • To minimize re-arrest and failure-to-appear rates pending adjudication
  • To ensure appropriate conditions of confinement in secure facilities
  • To redirect public finances to sustain successful reforms
JDAI sites pursue eight interrelated strategies to accomplish these objectives:
  • Collaboration among juvenile justice agencies, other governmental entities and community organizations
  • Use of accurate data to diagnose a site's needs and assess the impact of various reforms
  • Development of objective detention admissions criteria and instruments
  • Development of new or enhanced alternatives to secure detention
  • Reform of case processing to expedite the flow of cases in the system
  • Focus on special detention cases, including probation violations, writs and warrants, and youth awaiting placement
  • Reduce racial and ethnic disparities, particularly in the use of detention
  • Improvement of conditions of confinement through periodic assessments
JDAI has achieved significant results in terms of reducing use of detention without jeopardizing public safety, saving money, and attracting new resources and shifting public funds from institutional confinement to community-based alternatives.  

CCLP staff serve as the primary Foundation consultants working on these goals and strategies in JDAI sites in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

CCLP staff, with partners at the Youth Law Center (YLC), also focus on improvement of conditions of confinement by training site representatives and others to conduct detention facility self-assessments.  CCLP and YLC staff have developed an extensive set of standards for the self-assessments in eight major areas (C.H.A.P.T.E.R.S. -- Classification, Health and mental health care, Access to family and counsel, Programming, Training and supervision of staff, Environmental issues, Restraints, isolation, use of force, discipline, and grievances; and Safety) as well as guidelines for how to conduct facility self-assessments and "how to" materials for each of the eight conditions areas covering documents to read, people to interview, and things to see in the facility. CCLP and YLC are currently updating the current set of standards, with an expected release date of August 2013.



The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that more than 1 in 10 youth in state juvenile facilities and large local facilities were sexually victimized by staff or youth in a 12-month period.

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