The Annie E. Casey Foundation: Helping vulnerable kids & families succeed

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

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JDAI Site Updates

Minnesota JDAI Site Transforming its Approach

Ramsey County, Minnesota, is using JDAI policies and practices to remake its approach to juvenile justice.

From the outset, JDAI officials in Ramsey County recognized that a disproportionate number of youth of color were being detained unnecessarily and that their facility was overcrowded. The county proactively identified that it was detaining large numbers of youth for low-level offenses and probation violations and collaborated with community-based providers and probation officers to develop non-secure options for these youth.

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners approved additional funding for 40 probation slots as part of their continuum of alternatives to detention. Low-risk youth detained on bench warrants were reassessed using the county’s risk-assessment tool, and many were released with a revised court date. A sustained effort to reduce the backlog of cases pending court hearings resulted in a more efficient system that brings youth to court quickly. As the detention population decreased, the JDAI site closed one of its detention pods.

Prior to the adoption of JDAI core strategies, the average daily population of the Ramsey detention center was 89. In the first quarter in 2009, the population has dropped to 38, down 57 percent. The average daily population for youth of color has been reduced by 49 percent and facility admissions due to probation violations were down by 53 percent.

Source: Ramsey County JDAI 2009 Report

In March 2009 the Ramsey County Board appropriated funds to establish two evening reporting centers in communities with high detention rates. Funding was also secured for "community coaches" to work with younger youth and those who do not need the structure of a reporting center.

To bridge the gap between the new community-based alternatives and probation, the county created a “community alternative liaison specialist” position charged with crafting a seamless system of referrals. The county intends to build this position into a community-wide collaborator who will identify existing resources and help secure funds for additional programming.

Informing stakeholders of the new programming, JDAI Coordinator Earl Ross said, "It is crucial that we succeed at this stage in the reform work if we are to continue to ensure better outcomes for our youth and their families. Ramsey County has seen impressive results so far from its engagement in the core strategies of JDAI. We must hold ourselves accountable and prioritize this work if we are to continue to succeed."

For more information visit the Ramsey County JDAI website.

View the Ramsey County Board's discussion on JDAI.

For more information contact Ramsey County JDAI Coordinator Earl Ross at

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