Annual JDAI Conference Celebrates Success

Posted May 9, 2013, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

JDAI’s largest gathering to date brought together more than 700 policymakers and practitioners in Houston (Harris County), Texas, for the 19th JDAI Intersite Conference in April 2012.

The conference celebrated the initiative’s past two decades of success, including a 42 percent reduction overall in the use of detention by JDAI sites. The reduction represents 2,400 fewer youth in detention.

Patrick McCarthy, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s president, updated conferees on the Foundation’s ambitious goal to reduce the incarceration of committed youth and to close America’s training schools.

In his annual "State of the Initiative" speech, Bart Lubow, director of Casey’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, outlined the opportunities available to JDAI sites as states and localities “prepare to eschew policies of mass incarceration that have been at the center of crime policy for the past four decades.

“It is at least a portent of a different future, one that recognizes that mass incarceration has proven a fiscally unsustainable approach to public safety that maintains and exacerbates racial and ethnic disadvantages, disrupts families, undermines communities and disregards new knowledge about how to respond more effectively to crime,” he said.

The three-day event included more than 40 workshops covering a wide range of juvenile justice topics, including: safely reducing reliance on secure detention; racial and ethnic disparities and bias; building community capacity; data-informed decision making; and judicial leadership in detention reform.

Gail D. Mumford, senior associate at the Casey Foundation, welcomed conferees and asked those attending their first conference to stand. More than half the audience rose to a rousing round of applause.

The Harris County JDAI site was a gracious host and heartily welcomed JDAI. Its stakeholders used a plenary session to proudly showcase the county’s six years of accomplishments in reforming its detention policies and practices.

Referrals to Harris County Juvenile Probation have decreased by 36 percent; admissions to detention by 29 percent overall and 37 percent among youth of color; average daily population by 61 percent; and referrals to residential facilities and Texas Youth Commission placements by 62 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

Another plenary panel featured family members representing Justice for Families, a national network of community organizations that recently released Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice. The report is based on surveys of more than 1,000 families whose children entered local juvenile justice systems.

JDAI looks forward to another great conference in Atlanta in April 2013.

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