JDAI Expands Focus to "Deep End" of Juvenile System

Posted March 14, 2012
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog jdaiexpandsfocustodeepend 2012

Richard Ross for Juvenile in Justice

After near­ly 20 years of sin­gle-mind­ed focus on reform­ing the front end of the juve­nile jus­tice process, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion is plan­ning an ambi­tious expan­sion of Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive (JDAI) to pro­mote reforms in the deep end” of the sys­tem. The aim will be to sig­nif­i­cant­ly, but safe­ly, reduce com­mit­ments to youth cor­rec­tions cen­ters and oth­er res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties through pol­i­cy, prac­tice, and pro­gram reforms at both the state and local levels.

This expand­ed focus on the dis­po­si­tion­al end of the sys­tem is a nat­ur­al exten­sion of deten­tion reform. State and local JDAI lead­ers will be inte­gral par­tic­i­pants in these deep end reform efforts, apply­ing their col­lab­o­ra­tive data-dri­ven approach­es to fig­ure out how to min­i­mize youth incar­cer­a­tion (and oth­er forms of out-of-home place­ments) while max­i­miz­ing pub­lic safe­ty and improv­ing youth outcomes.

Recent results reports indi­cate that, on aver­age, JDAI sites have already reduced com­mit­ments to state youth cor­rec­tions by approx­i­mate­ly one-third, pri­mar­i­ly by min­i­miz­ing the num­ber of youth in secure deten­tion at the time of disposition.

The deep end efforts will explore how much deep­er these reduc­tions can be—and how youth well-being and pub­lic safe­ty out­comes can be improved—if JDAI sites inten­tion­al­ly adopt best prac­tices relat­ed to dis­po­si­tion­al deci­sion-mak­ing and com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives. The work will focus upon four key strate­gies, each offer­ing sub­stan­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties for local and state site participation.

1. Rais­ing pub­lic awareness

In Octo­ber 2011, the Foun­da­tion released No Place for Kids: The Case for Reduc­ing Juve­nile Incar­cer­a­tion, which reviewed 40 years of evi­dence and found that America’s heavy reliance on juve­nile incar­cer­a­tion is misguided.

Count­less stud­ies and decades of expe­ri­ence show that these insti­tu­tions are both dan­ger­ous and inef­fec­tive,” the report found.

The report also not­ed that, with lit­tle notice in the media, many state juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems have already begun to sharply reduce the num­ber of com­mit­ted youth in cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties and oth­er res­i­den­tial placements.

From 1997 to 2007, the num­ber of youth in cor­rec­tion­al place­ments declined 24 per­cent nation­wide. More than 50 youth cor­rec­tions facil­i­ties were shut down just from 2007 through 2011.

These devel­op­ments are cer­tain­ly encour­ag­ing, but they do not yet reflect a clear nation­al pol­i­cy con­sen­sus in sup­port of youth cor­rec­tions reform, nor a gen­uine nation­al reform move­ment among states and localities.

There­fore, one key ele­ment with­in JDAI’s expand­ed focus will be pub­lic edu­ca­tion activ­i­ties designed to: 1) increase aware­ness of the neg­a­tive and expen­sive con­se­quences of unnec­es­sary and inap­pro­pri­ate reliance on con­fine­ment; 2) dis­sem­i­nate strate­gies and lessons learned regard­ing ways to safe­ly and effec­tive­ly reduce youth incar­cer­a­tion; and 3) build nation­al momen­tum in sup­port of pol­i­cy and prac­tice reforms that safe­ly reduce incar­cer­a­tion, save tax­pay­er dol­lars, and improve youth outcomes.

Fol­low­ing up on No Place for Kids, the Foun­da­tion will issue a series of new pub­li­ca­tions to pro­mote deep end reform. It will also work with key con­stituen­cy orga­ni­za­tions to edu­cate pol­i­cy­mak­ers and juve­nile jus­tice stake­hold­ers, and it will devel­op a web­site to dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion and keep the field connected.

2. State-lev­el pol­i­cy reform

The rules” regard­ing youth incar­cer­a­tion are set at the state lev­el through laws, reg­u­la­tions, and fund­ing approach­es. There­fore, if deep end reforms are to take root, chang­ing those state-deter­mined rules will be essential.

That is why the Casey Foun­da­tion is pleased that the Pew Cen­ter on the States will be an impor­tant part­ner in this work. Over the past sev­er­al years, Pew’s Pub­lic Safe­ty Per­for­mance project has stim­u­lat­ed sig­nif­i­cant pol­i­cy changes in the adult cor­rec­tions sys­tems of sev­er­al states. Now, in part­ner­ship with Casey, Pew will expand its research and advo­ca­cy work into the juve­nile jus­tice arena.

Work­ing togeth­er, Pew and Casey will iden­ti­fy and work close­ly with states to devel­op and imple­ment new pol­i­cy reforms to reduce cor­rec­tion­al com­mit­ments and oth­er out-of-home place­ments. Pew will take the lead in help­ing engage state lead­ers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers in juve­nile jus­tice statu­to­ry reform. Casey will pro­vide inten­sive tech­ni­cal assis­tance to sup­port imple­men­ta­tion of the iden­ti­fied reforms.

Key strate­gies for reform will like­ly include:

  • Lim­it­ing eli­gi­bil­i­ty for out-of-home place­ment to the most seri­ous and vio­lent youth;
  • Elim­i­nat­ing coun­ter­pro­duc­tive finan­cial incen­tives that encour­age local juris­dic­tions to com­mit youth to state cus­tody; and
  • Invest­ing in evi­dence-based, non-res­i­den­tial treat­ment meth­ods and oth­er promis­ing treat­ment and super­vi­sion alter­na­tives to res­i­den­tial placement.

These state-lev­el reform efforts will begin in 2012 with two pilot states, and will expand to addi­tion­al states in suc­ceed­ing years. Over time, the Foun­da­tion hopes these efforts will result in a crit­i­cal mass of states that have imple­ment­ed major state-lev­el pol­i­cy reforms and sub­stan­tial­ly reduced reliance on com­mit­ments and out-of-home placements.

3. Oppor­tu­ni­ties for local JDAI sites

The Foun­da­tion will also begin work­ing inten­sive­ly on deep end reform efforts in two local JDAI sites, again adding addi­tion­al sites in sub­se­quent years. These ini­tial sites will under­take com­pre­hen­sive reforms and, if suc­cess­ful, serve as lab­o­ra­to­ries for inno­va­tion and repli­ca­tion to oth­er sites in future years.

The JDAI juris­dic­tions cho­sen as pilot sites will com­mit their col­lab­o­ra­tives to under­tak­ing ambi­tious deep end reforms—and to recruit­ing new part­ners as need­ed to address deep end reform chal­lenges effec­tive­ly. Ini­tial activ­i­ties in the pilot sites will include:

  • Train­ing on deep end fun­da­men­tals, which will be based on a set of focus areas anal­o­gous to the eight core strate­gies of JDAI;
  • A quan­ti­ta­tive analy­sis of dis­po­si­tion­al trends to deter­mine the key dri­vers of out-of-home place­ment and oppor­tu­ni­ties for high-impact change;
  • A qual­i­ta­tive assess­ment of poli­cies and prac­tices that influ­ence dis­po­si­tion­al out­comes, includ­ing inter­views and/​or focus groups with sys­tem stakeholders;
  • Pri­or­i­ti­za­tion and plan­ning to iden­ti­fy which pol­i­cy, prac­tice, and pro­gram­mat­ic changes are most crit­i­cal to imple­ment in order to safe­ly reduce post-dis­po­si­tion­al place­ments; and
  • Draft­ing work plans to estab­lish roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties for imple­ment­ing deep end reforms.

Based on these plans, par­tic­i­pat­ing sites will pur­sue sev­er­al sets of over­lap­ping and mutu­al­ly rein­forc­ing reforms, including:

  • Chang­ing dis­po­si­tion­al deci­sion-mak­ing and relat­ed prac­tices to ensure that youth are not com­mit­ted or placed for mis­de­meanors or oth­er low-lev­el offenses;
  • Revis­ing pro­ba­tion prac­tices to enhance effec­tive­ness and lim­it cor­rec­tion­al place­ments stem­ming from vio­la­tions; and
  • Expand­ing and improv­ing non-res­i­den­tial treat­ment and reha­bil­i­ta­tion options, includ­ing evi­dence-based treat­ment modal­i­ties and enhanced edu­ca­tion­al, men­tal health, sub­stance abuse, and work­force devel­op­ment ser­vices, sup­ports, and oppor­tu­ni­ties in the community.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing sites will also require capac­i­ty to mea­sure out­comes and to pro­vide data track­ing to demon­strate how reforms affect out­comes for youth well-being and pub­lic safety.

4. Tech­ni­cal assistance

In addi­tion to offer­ing inten­sive sup­port to help a small num­ber of state and local pilot sites demon­strate the full poten­tial of deep end reforms, the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group will pro­vide infor­ma­tion and assis­tance to oth­er JDAI sites in a num­ber of ways.

For instance, the Foun­da­tion will devel­op an array of new ana­lyt­ic tools and best prac­tice guides, and it will make them avail­able online to all JDAI sites on a ded­i­cat­ed web­site. These online tools will pro­vide infor­ma­tion to local JDAI site per­son­nel on how to gath­er rel­e­vant data, assess cur­rent pro­grams and prac­tices, iden­ti­fy and plan new approach­es to reduce over­re­liance on correctional/​residential place­ments, and expand the scope and qual­i­ty of non-res­i­den­tial treat­ment and super­vi­sion options.

In addi­tion, the Foun­da­tion will cre­ate a tech­ni­cal assis­tance hub that will pro­vide more expand­ed sup­port for a lim­it­ed num­ber of oth­er sites eager to explore deep end reform oppor­tu­ni­ties on a self-guid­ed basis.

Juris­dic­tions falling into this cat­e­go­ry will be able to request tech­ni­cal assis­tance through the ded­i­cat­ed web­site. They will also have oppor­tu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate in train­ing sem­i­nars and spe­cial­ized JDAI con­fer­ences focused on deep end reform.

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