New Jersey Becomes First State to Implement JDAI Statewide

Posted September 12, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
When young people are supported in the community, rather than juvenile detention, they can strengthen family connections.

New Jer­sey is the first state to expand the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive® (JDAI) to every coun­ty, mark­ing a major mile­stone for the ini­tia­tive. Near­ly 15 years of JDAI reforms through­out New Jer­sey have result­ed in dra­mat­i­cal­ly low­ered juve­nile deten­tion pop­u­la­tions and an increased array of deten­tion alternatives.

When it joined JDAI in 2004, New Jer­sey became the first juris­dic­tion to make a state-lev­el com­mit­ment to the ini­tia­tive. New Jer­sey start­ed with five JDAI pilot sites and grad­u­al­ly expand­ed the ini­tia­tive statewide after those sites demon­strat­ed sus­tain­able suc­cess. The last of its coun­ties adopt­ed JDAI reforms this year.

New Jer­sey has gained nation­al recog­ni­tion as a mod­el for state-led deten­tion reform, becom­ing the first and only des­ig­nat­ed state-lev­el JDAI mod­el site in 2008. The Casey Foundation’s 2014 JDAI in New Jer­sey report praised the state’s lead­er­ship in pro­mot­ing the wide­spread and effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of JDAI.

Gail D. Mum­ford, a senior asso­ciate in the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group, attrib­ut­es New Jersey’s suc­cess­ful expan­sion to its explic­it inten­tion­al­i­ty. They had the key state orga­ni­za­tions at the table at the onset. They cre­at­ed a buzz about JDAI in a bold way — they wrote about the work, held state and local train­ings and estab­lished more strin­gent cri­te­ria to join. They were so methodical.”

As in many juris­dic­tions, New Jersey’s deten­tion sys­tem was over­whelmed before join­ing JDAI, with coun­ty facil­i­ties hold­ing 22 to 123 per­cent more young peo­ple than their stat­ed capac­i­ty in 2002, despite decreas­es in juve­nile crime. Rec­og­niz­ing the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of the over­bur­dened sys­tem on both young peo­ple and state cof­fers, the New Jer­sey Juve­nile Jus­tice Com­mis­sion com­mit­ted to large-scale reform.

The results of New Jersey’s efforts are strik­ing. The state’s JDAI 2017 Annu­al Data Report, which includes infor­ma­tion on the 19 coun­ties active in JDAI at that time, reports that the aver­age dai­ly pop­u­la­tion of juve­nile deten­tion cen­ters in the state decreased by near­ly 70 per­cent between 2003 and 2017. Pop­u­la­tion reduc­tions led to the clo­sure of eight coun­ty-oper­at­ed deten­tion facil­i­ties, and the num­ber of deten­tion cen­ters in New Jer­sey has declined from 17 to nine since it joined JDAI. The reforms have led to an annu­al sav­ings of $21 mil­lion with­out affect­ing pub­lic safety.

State lead­ers in New Jer­sey are hail­ing the juve­nile jus­tice system’s trans­for­ma­tion. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Gur­bir S. Gre­w­al calls the change noth­ing short of remark­able.” He notes that the col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts among the Juve­nile Jus­tice Com­mis­sion, judi­cia­ry, law enforce­ment, pub­lic defend­ers, coun­ty gov­ern­ment, advo­cates and oth­er stake­hold­ers have allowed tens of thou­sands of young peo­ple to remain at home receiv­ing appro­pri­ate ser­vices — all as the juve­nile crime rate con­tin­ues to decline.”

Since 2008, lead­ers from 17 states have vis­it­ed New Jer­sey to learn about its JDAI work. Mum­ford sees this atten­tion as well deserved: The notion that any­where you live in this state, there are going to be objec­tive and thought­ful prac­tices around what hap­pens in the life of a child involved with the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem — that’s huge.”

Relat­ed New Jer­sey Juve­nile Jus­tice Resources

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