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Embargoed Until: Monday, October 4, 2010

Tracy Velazquez - (202) 288-2722 /
Bart Lubow - (410) 215-8870 /

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National Juvenile Justice Reform Conference Comes to Missouri

Kansas City, MO, October 4, 2010 – Approximately 600 juvenile justice practitioners, advocates and experts are assembling in Kansas City, Missouri, October 4 – 6 for one of the nation’s largest juvenile justice conferences. Missouri was chosen as the site of the annual Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) conference because of the state’s successful juvenile justice reform efforts, including both their work to safely reduce the number of youth held in detention, and because of the nationally-renowned “Missouri Model” of smaller, more rehabilitative facilities for committed youth.

“The Missouri sites have been among the most successful nationwide,” said Bart Lubow, Director, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the JDAI program’s funder. “They have significantly and safely reduced the number of youth who are kept in detention, saving Missouri communities hundreds of thousands of dollars in detention costs while improving outcomes for these young people at the same time.”

Conference Highlights

A plenary showcasing the success of Missouri’s JDAI sites will kick off the conference Tuesday, October 5th at 8:45 a.m. Panelists will include:

  • The Hon. Jimmie Edwards, City of St. Louis Circuit Judge;
  • Kevin Masters, Deputy Chief, Kansas City, MO Police Department;
  • Gary Waint, Deputy Administrator, Office of State Courts Administrator, Jefferson City;
  • Susan Cox, Director of Probation & Field Services, Greene County Juvenile Office, Springfield; and Jeff Eisenbeis and Mary Marquez, Deputy Court Administrator and Director of Legal Services, the Jackson County Family Court.

The conference will also feature a lecture by Michelle Alexander, author of the groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness, at 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, October 6th in the hotel’s Century Ballroom. In a review of the work Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP said, “Alexander's book offers a timely and original framework for understanding mass incarceration, its roots to Jim Crow, our modern caste system, and what must be done to eliminate it.”

Release of report “The Missouri Model: Reinventing the Practice of Rehabilitating Youthful Offenders.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation will use the JDAI conference as the venue to release The Missouri Model: Reinventing the Practice of Rehabilitating Youthful Offenders. The report summarizes the approach of the State of Missouri’s juvenile corrections agency, the Division of Youth Services (DYS), to serving the small minority of youth in the juvenile justice system who must for a time be removed from the community to protect public safety. The report provides those seeking to replicate the model with information both on the nuts and bolts of DYS’ system, and emphasizes the need to embrace the mission of helping rehabilitate youth.

“While JDAI focuses on youth just after they are arrested,” said Lubow, “we know that reform at the ‘deep end’ of the system is critical if we hope to have a lasting impact on young people and their communities.”

Following is more detailed information on JDAI and the JDAI sites in Missouri:

JDAI: A Successful Model Worth Expanding.

JDAI was developed to safely reduce youth confinement while stimulating broader systemic changes. About two decades after its inception, JDAI is the most widely replicated juvenile justice strategy in the nation, dramatically and safely reducing the number of youth in detention facilities and saving millions for taxpayers. A recent one-day census of active JDAI sites found that their detention populations were on average 35 percent less than their daily detention populations prior to JDAI. JDAI also reduces the number of youth held in long-term correctional facilities and decrease racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. “JDAI sites saw a decrease of 22 percent in the number of youth of color detained in 2007,” added Lubow, “Whereas in approximately the same period nationally there was a 6 percent increase in detention for youth of color.”

JDAI’s Track Record of Success in Missouri.

JDAI Sites in MissouriMissouri has had JDAI sites in Jackson County (Kansas City), St. Louis City (22nd Judicial Circuit), Greene County (Springfield) and St. Louis County (21st Judicial Circuit). The first three of these sites were recognized by the Casey Foundation as among the highest achievers in the country, having reduced their detention populations by more than 50 percent without compromising public safety.

“JDAI is flourishing in these localities,” said Bob Perry, Missouri’s JDAI coordinator. “It’s time to replicate their experiences across the state, in all 24 Missouri detention facilities.” JDAI will expand from four initial jurisdictional sites to fifteen counties representing the vast majority of the state’s youth population by the end of 2010.

“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when the community sets its mind to something,” said Juvenile Judge Jimmie Edwards, a driving force behind St. Louis’ involvement in JDAI. “We set high expectations of our children, and they impress us with continual success.”

JDAI Missouri Site Highlights

Jackson County (Kansas City). One of two major Missouri cities participating in JDAI, Kansas City has delivered impressive results. It reduced its total detention population and the number of youth of color in detention by 54 percent. As a result Kansas City closed a 14-bed detention unit, lowered the official capacity by 20 percent, and avoided layoffs of detention staff. As its detention practices changed and more youth are maintained successfully in the community, Kansas City’s need for deep-end placements lessened by 57 percent and the capacity at its committed facility dropped. Kansas City was able to achieve these results by redefining the purpose of detention; developing a strong, community-based governing collaborative; engaging the community as stakeholders; developing non-secure alternative programs, including respite and specialized gender-based programming; and implementing standardized decision-making protocols.

St. Louis City (22nd Judicial Circuit).With the strong support of Judge Jimmie Edwards, the city of St. Louis saw its detention population fall by more than half, going from 98 prior to becoming a JDAI site to 43 in 2010. With the strong commitment of the courts and community partners, they created and instituted a very deliberative process that uses data to drive decision-making. St. Louis City also limits detentions of youth who violated their probation conditions, by strictly adhering to a preset formula for what sanctions are appropriate in different circumstances. The City’s deep reliance on data analysis and data-driven decisions led to a major expansion of alternatives, including an evening reporting center, home detention, and a weekend community service program. Among the available alternatives is the “Innovative Concept Academy,” a nationally recognized school that has been embraced whole-heartedly by the community. Judge Edwards led the effort to take an empty school building and create a vibrant place for approximately 300 youth, including those who had been given short term expulsion from their home school. Gaining a national reputation, the school recently had a visit from the U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. It was also featured in People and the August issue of St. Louis Magazine.

Greene County (Springfield). Greene County achieved the enviable honor of being the JDAI site with the highest percentage reduction in detention population in 2009 after shrinking its population by 83 percent, from 18 youth in detention to only 3. It accomplished this by focusing on low- to medium-risk youth. Greene County’s objective is to keep youth off the streets during the hours teens are most likely to commit crimes. An evening reporting center in Greene County allows youth under court supervision to continue residing at home and attend school. The program offers life-skills and anger management classes, as well as education about substance abuse, nutrition and money management. “We want to promote public safety by teaching these youth personal responsibility and accountability for their behavior," Perry Epperly, Greene County chief juvenile officer, said.

St. Louis County (21st Judicial Circuit). St. Louis County is the largest jurisdiction in the state and uses a variety of strategies to reduce the number of youth in detention. Detention management has the authority to release youth in the first 24 hours, and conduct rigorous daily administrative reviews of all detention admissions. The facilities screen youth to evaluate appropriate placement and possible treatment and service needs. In addition, St. Louis County has both evening and reporting centers, where youth are scheduled to go as an alternative to detention; while there, they can access a variety of services.

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The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) is a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to reducing society’s use of incarceration and promoting just and effective social policies.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization whose primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families.

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