JDAI’s Deep-End Sites Safely and Significantly Reduce Rates of Youth Confinement

Posted May 4, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

African American teenager with his mother

Juve­nile jus­tice juris­dic­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Deep-End Ini­tia­tive have out­paced reduc­tions in con­fine­ment at the nation­al lev­el, accord­ing to a new report. These results offer ear­ly evi­dence that com­mu­ni­ties can pre­serve pub­lic safe­ty and hold youth account­able while help­ing to ensure that young peo­ple, espe­cial­ly youth of col­or, can recov­er from their mis­takes and make a healthy tran­si­tion into adulthood.

Read or down­load Lead­ing With Race to Reimag­ine Youth Justice

The term deep end” describes the range of res­i­den­tial insti­tu­tions to which young peo­ple may be sen­tenced (or, in juve­nile court terms, dis­posed”) as a con­se­quence of delin­quen­cy. The term also evokes the unfor­tu­nate real­i­ty that youth who are plunged into the deep end of the sys­tem often find it dif­fi­cult to get out. Racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties are also high­est at this phase of juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem involve­ment, accord­ing to research.

Study after study has shown that these prison-like set­tings are no place for kids. The spread of COVID-19 with­in facil­i­ties adds to the urgency of keep­ing young peo­ple out of insti­tu­tions and under­scores the impor­tance of shar­ing strate­gies to safe­ly achieve this goal. COVID-19 rais­es the stakes for juve­nile jus­tice agen­cies to avoid unnec­es­sary con­fine­ment”,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. It push­es sys­tems to rethink who needs to be in facil­i­ties in the first place.”

The report, Lead­ing with Race to Reimag­ine Youth Jus­tice: JDAI’s Deep-End Ini­tia­tive, doc­u­ments the decline in out-of-home place­ments among deep-end sites and explains how 12 sites across the coun­try are keep­ing more young peo­ple at home, safe and con­nect­ed to pos­i­tive activ­i­ties and car­ing adults. This work builds on JDAI®, which orig­i­nal­ly focused on reform­ing deten­tion — or the front end of the juve­nile jus­tice system.

Why juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems should focus on youth of color

Crime has plum­met­ed nation­al­ly for more than two decades, but the large reduc­tion in the over­all num­ber of young peo­ple behind bars obscures a sober­ing real­i­ty: The odds remain high that a young per­son charged with a crime will be locked up, espe­cial­ly African Amer­i­can, Native Amer­i­can and Lati­no boys. In 2017, the most recent year for which nation­al data is avail­able, near­ly 70,000 young peo­ple were removed from their homes and placed in juve­nile facil­i­ties. African Amer­i­can youth were more than four times as like­ly to be con­fined as their white peers, based on this data.

Casey asks sites to focus first on youth of col­or — the young peo­ple sys­tems are most like­ly to place.

It is time for the field to reject the fic­tion that a ris­ing tide lifts all boats,” says Danielle Lipow, a senior asso­ciate in the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. Decades of reform have proved that race-neu­tral approach­es do not and can­not close the oppor­tu­ni­ty gap between white youth and youth of color.

Sites have made sig­nif­i­cant gains in equi­ty, out­pac­ing nation­al trends

Par­tic­i­pat­ing sites have com­mit­ted to rec­og­niz­ing and off­set­ting the struc­tur­al, insti­tu­tion­al and sys­temic racial and eth­nic inequities in their own sys­tems. As of 2017, the most recent year for which com­pa­ra­ble data is avail­able nation­al­ly, the deep-end sites had sub­stan­tial­ly out­paced the nation­al aver­age in reduc­ing out-of-home place­ments for African Amer­i­can youth. Reduc­tions in the ini­tial deep-end sites ranged from 43% to 67% from 2012 to 2017, com­pared with a 22% decrease at a nation­al lev­el. From 2014 to 2017, deep-end sites report­ed reduc­tions in place­ments for African Amer­i­can youth of at least 25% and as high as 65%, while this same sta­tis­tic fell by only 8% nation­al­ly over the same period.

Strate­gies to pro­mote racial equi­ty in juve­nile justice

The report describes the three pri­ma­ry strate­gies sites use to move toward data-dri­ven, mean­ing­ful reforms. These are:

  1. Cre­ate a visu­al map of the sys­tem to iden­ti­fy when and how young peo­ple get com­mu­ni­ty-based oppor­tu­ni­ties — rather than con­fine­ment — to recov­er from their mis­takes. Explore whether youth of col­or and white youth have equal access to these opportunities.
  2. Estab­lish a com­pre­hen­sive base­line from which to mea­sure progress by count­ing all instances of out-of-home place­ment, dis­ag­gre­gat­ed by race and ethnicity.
  3. Design and imple­ment tar­get­ed reforms focused in five key areas: 1) com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment; 2) diver­sion; 3) pro­ba­tion prac­tice; 4) fam­i­ly engage­ment; and 5) dis­po­si­tion (sen­tenc­ing) deci­sions. In Ram­sey Coun­ty, Min­neso­ta, home to St. Paul, for exam­ple, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers play lead­ing roles in impor­tant col­lab­o­ra­tive bod­ies, includ­ing the JDAI lead­er­ship group and the com­mit­tee respon­si­ble for rec­om­mend­ing pro­gram­mat­ic alter­na­tives to incarceration.

Reforms have suc­ceed­ed in a wide vari­ety of jurisdictions

Through the pilot, the Foun­da­tion sought to demon­strate that deep-end reforms could suc­ceed in juris­dic­tions that vary in size, cul­ture and demo­graph­ics. The 12 par­tic­i­pat­ing sites are locat­ed across the coun­try, includ­ing both coasts, the Mid­west and the Southwest.

The Deep-End Ini­tia­tive has shown that com­mu­ni­ties large and small, urban and rur­al, can make progress in reduc­ing con­fine­ment for young peo­ple and equip­ping them for a brighter future,” says Balis. There’s no bet­ter time for juris­dic­tions to adopt these approach­es to help keep their own young peo­ple healthy and head­ed toward a bet­ter path.”

Relat­ed resources on reduc­ing youth incarceration

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