Latest JDAI Results: Significant Reductions in Juvenile Incarceration and Crime

Posted December 9, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young person talking with a supportive teacher

In 1992, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion launched JDAI® to curb the overuse of juve­nile deten­tion while cre­at­ing alter­na­tive pro­grams for juve­nile offend­ers. Since the initiative’s launch — and for the first time in its his­to­ry — the aver­age num­ber of young peo­ple in juve­nile deten­tion on a dai­ly basis has dropped 50%, accord­ing to a recent analy­sis com­par­ing place­ment rates at par­tic­i­pat­ing sites both before and after JDAI implementation.

Learn more about JDAI’s strategies

Equal­ly impres­sive: JDAI com­mu­ni­ties have achieved sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tions in both juve­nile con­fine­ment and juve­nile crime, and — in most sites — these reduc­tions have been sus­tained or deep­ened over time, the analy­sis found.

Since imple­ment­ing JDAI, sites across the ini­tia­tive also reported:

  • a 57% drop in admis­sions at juve­nile deten­tion facil­i­ties; and
  • a 63% decrease in com­mit­ments to state custody.

Emerg­ing research reaf­firms that deten­tion caus­es seri­ous and last­ing harm to young peo­ple,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group, in his address at the 2019 JDAI Inter-Site Con­fer­ence. While there may well be cas­es when deten­tion is still required, it should nev­er be an easy decision.”

Rather than focus­ing sole­ly on reduc­ing the num­ber of young peo­ple in con­fine­ment, JDAI sites are now shift­ing their focus toward active­ly pro­mot­ing young people’s suc­cess and well-being. Balis encour­ages sites to use JDAI as a plat­form for build­ing a bet­ter, more equi­table youth jus­tice sys­tem by ask­ing them­selves four questions:

  1. Are sys­tems con­nect­ing young peo­ple to resources and oppor­tu­ni­ties in their communities?
  2. Are sys­tems help­ing young peo­ple address and over­come trauma?
  3. Are sys­tems pro­vid­ing young peo­ple oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­tribute to their com­mu­ni­ties, repair the harm they have caused and devel­op lead­er­ship skills?
  4. Are sys­tems tap­ping young people’s insights by pro­vid­ing them with oppor­tu­ni­ties to raise their voic­es and help guide the youth jus­tice system?

In light of the detri­men­tal effects of deten­tion and the con­tin­ued racial dis­par­i­ties that define juve­nile deten­tion in this coun­try, deten­tion should nev­er be nor­mal or rou­tine,” says Balis. Rather, our pub­lic sys­tems must explore every option and con­fine young peo­ple only in extra­or­di­nary cases.”

Read JDAI at 25

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