Honoring Its Roots, JDAI Selects Florida for National Conference

Posted January 5, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

In April, the Casey Foun­da­tion will com­mem­o­rate the 25th anniver­sary of its Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive (JDAI) dur­ing the JDAI Inter-Site Con­fer­ence in Orlan­do, Flori­da. Fit­ting­ly, deten­tion reforms in Broward Coun­ty inspired the cre­ation of the ini­tia­tive more than two decades ago.

The Ear­ly Days of Reform

From 1987 to 1992, Flori­da’s Broward Coun­ty com­bined inter­a­gency col­lab­o­ra­tion, research, objec­tive screen­ing pro­ce­dures, non-secure deten­tion alter­na­tives and faster case pro­cess­ing to reduce its deten­tion pop­u­la­tion by 65%, with­out any sac­ri­fice of pub­lic safe­ty. It saved tax­pay­ers more than $5 million.

Fol­low­ing Broward Coun­ty, five sites joined JDAI’s demon­stra­tion phase in 1992. Begun at the height of over­crowd­ing in deten­tion cen­ters across the coun­try and amid the nation’s alarm over youth crime and tough on crime tack, the JDAI pilot sites with­stood sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal resis­tance. The ear­ly suc­cess­es in two of the orig­i­nal sites — Mult­nom­ah Coun­ty, Ore­gon, and Cook Coun­ty, Illi­nois, which include the cities of Port­land and Chica­go respec­tive­ly — as well as in two of the initiative’s first repli­ca­tion sites, San­ta Cruz Coun­ty, Cal­i­for­nia, and Bernalil­lo Coun­ty, New Mex­i­co, proved that com­mon­sense approach­es and new alter­na­tives could safe­ly reduce the deten­tion population.

As these suc­cess­es and relat­ed deten­tion reform strate­gies were doc­u­ment­ed and shared, JDAI’s repli­ca­tion phase gained momen­tum. A train­ing and tech­ni­cal sup­port infra­struc­ture was built to help juris­dic­tions faith­ful­ly adopt JDAI’s eight core strate­gies, includ­ing five mod­el sites that agreed to serve as learn­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries for oth­er jurisdictions.

JDAI Today

JDAI has become the stan­dard of prac­tice for how local jus­tice sys­tems nation­wide han­dle the crit­i­cal front end of the juve­nile court process. The num­ber of juris­dic­tions adopt­ing the mod­el has con­tin­ued to climb year-after-year, and state gov­ern­ments are tak­ing an increas­ing­ly cen­tral role in sup­port­ing effec­tive JDAI repli­ca­tion. Sites have reduced deten­tion of court-involved youth more than 40% across the ini­tia­tive com­pared to base­line years, and they have done so while pro­tect­ing pub­lic safe­ty and safe­guard­ing tax­pay­er dollars.

JDAI now reach­es near­ly one-third of the total U.S. youth pop­u­la­tion. At the end of 2016, JDAI was oper­at­ing in about 300 local juris­dic­tions nation­wide, spread across 39 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

Reform in JDAI sites has expand­ed beyond the front end of the sys­tem by apply­ing core JDAI themes, such as effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion and objec­tive deci­sion mak­ing, to the lat­er phas­es of the juve­nile court and cor­rec­tions process. Sites in the JDAI net­work are reduc­ing incar­cer­a­tion and out-of-home place­ment through inten­tion­al deep end” reform work; oth­ers are tack­ling pro­ba­tion reform with the same objec­tive of nar­row­ing the pipeline into their sys­tems and improv­ing out­comes for kids.

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