Answering These Questions Can Help Juvenile Justice Agencies Reduce Youth Detention

Updated June 10, 2020 | Posted June 3, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young African American male

The pat­terns emerg­ing from JDAI® sites in response to COVID-19 reveal how rapid­ly and dra­mat­i­cal­ly change is hap­pen­ing in juve­nile jus­tice agen­cies across the coun­try. The data offer insight to state and local lead­ers about how their own juris­dic­tions com­pare to larg­er trends. By ask­ing them­selves the right ques­tions, lead­ers can begin to under­stand what’s behind the num­bers, what’s work­ing and what’s not.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion is pro­vid­ing ques­tions that lead­ers can ask them­selves to scru­ti­nize deten­tion deci­sions and to review — if not recon­sid­er — every pol­i­cy that leans toward con­fine­ment. The ques­tions cov­er pop­u­la­tion, releas­es, admis­sions, race equi­ty and lessons learned.

This is a real­ly great resource for juve­nile jus­tice agen­cies to tease what’s with­in and between the num­bers,” says Jason Melchi of Empact Solu­tions, which part­nered with the Foun­da­tion ana­lyze the COVID-19 Youth Deten­tion Sur­vey responses.

How does your juris­dic­tion com­pare to data com­piled from juris­dic­tions in 33 states?

Col­lec­tive­ly the respond­ing juris­dic­tions are home to 35% of the U.S. youth pop­u­la­tion, ages 10 to 17. The data were col­lect­ed on or before May 152020.

  • Giv­en what the aggre­gate trends indi­cate, how does your local juris­dic­tion compare?
  • For sites that have not reduced their deten­tion pop­u­la­tion dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, what are the reasons?

Are youth able to be released from detention?

  • What has been the biggest obsta­cle to releas­ing youth from detention?
  • What con­ver­sa­tions are tak­ing place to release youth cur­rent­ly in detention?
  • For youth in deten­tion, are they remain­ing there longer than they might have before the onset of COVID-19?
  • What mech­a­nisms exist to expe­dite releas­ing youth in detention?
  • Are the local courts hold­ing remote hear­ings for youth in deten­tion? If so, are there issues with access?
  • How are your alter­na­tives to deten­tion (ATD) func­tion­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic? Which ATDs or oth­er com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams are accept­ing place­ments and which have been sidelined?
  • How have ATDs adjust­ed dur­ing the pandemic?
  • What new deten­tion alter­na­tives do you wish you had access to right now?
  • What bar­ri­ers are pre­vent­ing or lim­it­ing your use of com­mu­ni­ty and home-based alter­na­tives instead of secure detention?
  • What else is chal­leng­ing in releas­ing youth from secure detention?

Are youth still being admit­ted to detention?

  • Has your juris­dic­tion expe­ri­enced a reduc­tion in refer­rals where a deten­tion deci­sion is being made?
  • Under what cir­cum­stances would a youth be admit­ted to deten­tion in your juris­dic­tion right now?
  • If you’ve expe­ri­enced a reduc­tion in admis­sions, what have been the biggest drivers?
  • What kind of effects has school clo­sures had on your admis­sions to detention?
  • What bar­ri­ers exist that are pre­vent­ing or lim­it­ing the use of com­mu­ni­ty and home-based alter­na­tives instead of secure detention?

How has the pan­dem­ic affect­ed race equity?

  • How are the trends in your juris­dic­tion dif­fer­ent or sim­i­lar for white youth and youth of color?
  • Have there been few­er youth with non-felony offens­es, school-relat­ed offens­es and/​or tech­ni­cal vio­la­tions enter­ing secure deten­tion? If so, how has this affect­ed dif­fer­ent groups of young peo­ple by race and ethnicity?
  • If dis­par­i­ties have nar­rowed, what could you do to main­tain that momen­tum dur­ing and after the pandemic?

What are some big­ger-pic­ture takeaways?

  • What strate­gies could you apply after the pan­dem­ic to keep admis­sions at their COVID-19 lev­el or lower?
  • What’s been bet­ter or worse with­out the bar­ri­er of trans­porta­tion to pro­grams and services?
  • What’s been bet­ter or worse con­nect­ing with youth electronically?
  • What are you strug­gling with the most right now?
  • What has changed that has offered insights about the future?
  • What changes do you hope will become permanent?

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