Alternatives to Incarceration Resources

On any given day in the United States, over 50,000 youth are living in out-of-home placements because of their involvement with the juvenile justice system. Many jurisdictions continue to rely on incarceration in spite of research showing that the practice is expensive, counterproductive, and harmful to youth.

The Center’s staff have worked with over a dozen jurisdictions on strategies to reduce the unnecessary incarceration of youth. For example, CCLP plays a leading role in coordinating the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). Since 1992, JDAI has helped jurisdictions in 39 states and the District of Columbia safely reduce the reliance on secure detention and incarceration of young people. To learn more about the Center’s technical assistance opportunities in this area, contact Roxana Matiella, Director of Alternatives to Incarceration, at 202-637-0377 x107 or

Graduated Responses Toolkit

A significant portion of youth incarceration in the juvenile justice system results from violations of probation or other court orders. Much of this incarceration is not necessary to protect the safety of the community. Instead, many courts and probation departments respond to “technical” violations of probation – such as missing appointments with probation officers, skipping school, or breaking curfew – by relying on detention and out-of-home placement as a means of holding youth accountable for their actions.

A strong system of “graduated responses” – combining sanctions for violations and incentives for continued progress – can significantly reduce unnecessary incarceration, reduce racial and ethnic disparities, and improve successful probation completion rates and other outcomes for youth under supervision. The Center for Children’s Law and Policy has prepared a new Graduated Responses Toolkit designed to help jurisdictions create an effective graduated response system or improve an existing system. The publication collects best practices from jurisdictions around the country that have successfully reduced incarceration for technical violations of probation.

The Graduated Responses Toolkit contains:

  • An overview of graduated responses, including the research supporting their use;
  • A step-by-step roadmap for creating or enhancing a graduated response system;
  • Guidance on gathering and using data;
  • Staff training materials and hands-on scenarios;
  • Guidance on integrating graduated responses into case plans;
  • Tools to engage stakeholders; and
  • Contacts from the field.

Click here to download the Graduated Responses Toolkit. For questions or more information about the Toolkit or its contents, please contact Jason Szanyi at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy at or 202-637-0377, extension 108.