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Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

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Results from the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

Detention Populations Lowered

  • Bernalillo County, New Mexico, reduced their average daily detention population by 58 percent between 1999 and 2004.
  • In two years, Essex, New Jersey lowered it average daily population from 243 to 138 per day (43 percent).
  • Ada County, Idaho; Pierce County, Washington; and Ventura County, California lowered detention populations by at least one-third.
  • Cook County, Illinois reduced its average daily population in locked detention from 682 to 441 (1995 to 2005).
  • Multnomah County, Oregon, lowered the daily detention population by 65 percent.
  • Average daily population in the Santa Cruz County, California juvenile hall dropped by 65 percent between 1997 (46.7) and 2005 (15.9)
  • After only two years as a JDAI site, New Jersey’s five participating jurisdictions had 178 (35 percent) less youth in detention and admitted 1,269 (20 percent) less youth to detention in 2005 than they did in 2003.

Juvenile Crime is Down Substantially in JDAI Sites

  • In Cook County the youth violent arrest rate fell 54 percent between 1993 and 2000.
  • In Santa Cruz County juvenile felony arrests decreased 47 percent -- from 30 youth per 1000 in 1997 to 16 youth per 1000 in 2004.
  • In Multnomah County juvenile felony arrests fell by 45 percent between 1994 and 2000.
  • In Bernalillo County, the newest JDAI model site, the number of youth booked on a felony charge fell from 4,726 in 1999 to 3,892 in 2005.

Racial Disparities Have Been Reduced

  • Santa Clara, California initiated objective screening decisions and after one year 276 fewer youth of color were referred to juvenile hall and 162 fewer youth of color were detained.
  • Santa Cruz County opened a neighborhood evening center for high risk Latino youth and reduced its average minority population in juvenile hall from 64 percent to 47 percent.
  • Multnomah County also reduced the disproportionate confinement of minority youth by sharply lowering the proportion of minorities in detention from 70 youth (73 percent) before JDAI to 16 youth (50 percent) in 2003.
  • In 1999, Bernalillo County booked 2,840 (72 percent) ethnic minorities but in 2005, only 2,426 (62 percent) minorities were booked by the county.
  • In Clayton County, Georgia, public school referrals of African American youth to the juvenile court were reduced by 46 percent.

JDAI's Influence

Influence can be measured by the growing awareness and public support for detention reform in general and strategies, policies and programs in particular.

  • The New Mexico children’s code was substantially re-written in 2003 to include revised objective criteria for detention admissions, expedited court processing and other JDAI-related policies and practices.
  • Also in New Mexico, the success of JDAI in BernalilloCounty led to implementation of JDAI statewide.
  • In Santa Clara County, law enforcement agencies developed new objective detention reform criteria to guide police officers on whether to bring arrested youth for detention screening or cite and release them.
  • Participating counties in Illinois have stopped detaining status offenders as a result of JDAI policy and program changes.
  • In Multnomah County, a model memorandum of understanding between the police, probation and community agencies fundamentally alters how the police deal with runaways or status offenders consistent with its overall detention reform policy.
  • In Maryland, laws were passed that require the promulgation of new detention standards.
  • The 2003 report to Congress by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice was devoted to detention reform.
  • Three JDAI model sites were selected to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Reclaiming Futures initiative, which seeks to increase the prevention and treatment services available to drug-involved youth in the juvenile justice system.


JDAI’s Leverage of Fiscal Resources

JDAI sites have substantially reduced their detention budgets and redeployed resources into more productive, cost-effective uses. Locked detention typically costs $100 to $300 per night per youth—far more than even the most ambitious detention alternatives.

  • Pierce County, Washington closed a 50 bed unit of its detention center and redeployed approximately $800,000 in operating costs to support new community-based alternative programs for youth who previously would have been detained.
  • Bernalillo County, closed a wing of beds in the local juvenile detention center, reinvesting the money ($200,000) in detention alternatives.
  • Funded through private and public insurance, Bernalillo County, established a new out-patient mental health clinic on-site at the juvenile detention center for delinquent youth.
  • In Santa Cruz County, which had been operating its juvenile hall at approximately 45 percent above capacity, new construction costs were avoided and local government was able to divert resources to facility improvements and a new health clinic. More than $7 million in detention expenses have been redeployed to community alternatives since 1998.
  • Multnomah County redeployed more than $12 million. By reducing its reliance on detention, Multnomah was able to mothball three 16-bed detention units and divert roughly $2 million a year to other needed services.
  • In Georgia, the Department of Juvenile Justice invested more than three-quarters of a million dollars in new, community-based alternatives-to-detention programs. It also redeployed 12 staff members to serve as "detention expediters."
  • The proposed construction of a costly new detention facility was avoided in CookCounty saving $24 million dollars.

JDAI sites are securing federal, state and local funding streams to enhance services for youth involved in the juvenile system:

  • Cook County local government provides more than $5 million dollars annually to support an entire continuum of community-based programs and staff salaries that provide alternatives to secure care.
  • Three California JDAI counties were awarded almost $3 million in foundation grants to upgrade their mental health services for troubled youth.
  • State advisory groups (the state-level policy committees required by law to administer federal juvenile justice funds) in seven states have redeployed more than $5 million to support detention reforms since 2001.
  • In Maryland, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention awarded approximately one-quarter million dollars in grants to support various detention reform strategies. In 2005, this same office allocated $125,000 in federal funds to support detention reform assessments related to reducing racial disparities in the state’s four largest counties.
  • In Illinois, the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission has allocated more than $2 million in federal block grant funds to support statewide detention reform efforts.

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