Juvenile Justice Reforms in New Jersey Chronicled in Annie E. Casey Foundation Report

Posted October 14, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog Juvenile Justice Reformsin New Jersey 2014

Richard Ross for Juvenile in Justice

Amid all of Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tives suc­cess­es nation­al­ly, one JDAI goal has remained stub­born­ly elu­sive — statewide adop­tion. Giv­en the demands of the JDAI mod­el, local sites typ­i­cal­ly require out­side assis­tance if they are to pur­sue deten­tion reform suc­cess­ful­ly (if at all). As a result, the Casey Foun­da­tion has been work­ing for more than a decade to engage states in the JDAI repli­ca­tion process. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, robust state lead­er­ship on deten­tion reform has not emerged eas­i­ly in most states. Rather, sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers have often got­ten in the way of states mobi­liz­ing sup­port and pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful lead­er­ship to assist local JDAI repli­ca­tion efforts.

New Jer­sey was a strik­ing excep­tion to this trend. After start­ing with five sites in 2004, New Jer­sey extend­ed its JDAI efforts to 10 sites in 2006. And it has con­tin­ued to grad­u­al­ly expand to addi­tion­al sites ever since, adding its 17th and 18th coun­ties in 2013. With the three remain­ing coun­ties expect­ed to join JDAI by 2015, New Jer­sey has dis­tin­guished itself as the only state in the nation where JDAI is on track for statewide adop­tion in the near term.

Both in the ini­tial coun­ties and in repli­ca­tion sites, deten­tion admis­sions and dai­ly pop­u­la­tion have plum­met­ed. Many of the state’s deten­tion cen­ters have closed or con­sol­i­dat­ed. An impres­sive net­work of deten­tion alter­na­tives has been erect­ed. In addi­tion, a new risk-assess­ment instru­ment, wide­ly embraced by judges and oth­er sys­tem lead­ers through­out the state, has helped to sharply reduce the num­ber of low-risk youth placed into deten­tion cells.

A new report from the Casey Foun­da­tion traces the state’s suc­cess to the crit­i­cal assis­tance pro­vid­ed by New Jersey’s state gov­ern­ment. From the out­set of their JDAI efforts in 2004, top offi­cials in New Jersey’s juve­nile cor­rec­tions agency and judi­cia­ry focused intent­ly on statewide repli­ca­tion. Over time, New Jer­sey devel­oped a mul­ti­fac­eted sup­port struc­ture to facil­i­tate effec­tive JDAI repli­ca­tion, includ­ing: a net­work of deten­tion spe­cial­ists to sup­port local JDAI efforts, a strong statewide data col­lec­tion and analy­sis process, a clear and con­sis­tent process for coun­ties to ini­ti­ate local JDAI efforts, and peri­od­ic statewide JDAI conferences.

JDAI in New Jer­sey’s final pages describe the recent progress in sev­er­al states to mobi­lize state lead­er­ship and to begin emu­lat­ing New Jersey’s suc­cess in JDAI, and they point to crit­i­cal lessons for oth­ers states seek­ing to assume a lead­er­ship role in pro­mot­ing wide­spread and effec­tive repli­ca­tion efforts.

View JDAI in New Jer­sey.

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