New Jersey Racks Up Impressive Changes in Safely Reducing Juvenile Detention

Posted April 5, 2013
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Kevin BrownThe New Jer­sey JDAI Annu­al Data Report for 2011 cred­its a joint ini­tia­tive of the New Jer­sey Juve­nile Jus­tice Com­mis­sion (JJC), the New Jer­sey Judi­cia­ry and numer­ous coun­ty agen­cies with safe­ly reduc­ing the unnec­es­sary use of deten­tion for the state’s youth.

The report presents infor­ma­tion for the 15 sites active in 2011: Atlantic, Cam­den, Essex, Hud­son, Mon­mouth, Bergen, Burling­ton, Mer­cer, Ocean, Union, Pas­sa­ic, Som­er­set, Mid­dle­sex, Cum­ber­land and Warren.

Due to the Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive, New Jer­sey con­tin­ues to make great strides in reduc­ing the unnec­es­sary use of juve­nile deten­tion, while main­tain­ing com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty,” said Kevin M. Brown, Act­ing Exec­u­tive Director.

JDAI is a part­ner­ship. By work­ing togeth­er, we will con­tin­ue to exam­ine and improve our juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem and expand the reach of JDAI.”

New Jer­sey became a state JDAI repli­ca­tion site in 2004. Before that, the state expe­ri­enced – despite decreas­es in juve­nile arrests – the same chron­ic increas­es in the use of deten­tion for youth as much of the coun­try experienced.

Juve­nile arrests for index offens­es decreased by 44.8% and over­all juve­nile arrests decreased by 24.7% between 1993 and 2002. But aver­age dai­ly pop­u­la­tion in deten­tion increased by 37.7% dur­ing the same 10-year period.

The sharp rise led to over­crowd­ing in the state’s coun­ty-oper­at­ed deten­tion facil­i­ties. In fact, New Jersey’s deten­tion facil­i­ties were oper­at­ing at 166% of approved capac­i­ty in 1996.

The changes in New Jersey’s local deten­tion sys­tems doc­u­ment­ed by the report are all the more impres­sive because the state not only reduced the num­ber of youth in unnec­es­sary deten­tion, but also met pub­lic safe­ty goals. For example:

  • Across all 15 sites, aver­age dai­ly pop­u­la­tion has decreased by 54.8%. On any giv­en day, there were 446 few­er youth in secure deten­tion, with youth of col­or account­ing for 89.7% of this drop.
  • Com­par­ing the year pri­or to JDAI in each site to 2011, more than 6,000 few­er youth were admit­ted to deten­tion, a decrease of 59.8%.
  • Youth admit­ted to deten­tion for pro­ba­tion vio­la­tions dropped 65 per­cent, and youth admit­ted to deten­tion for fail­ing to appear in court dropped 53.7%.
  • The num­ber of girls in deten­tion on any giv­en day has decreased by 68.6%.
  • In 2011, an aver­age of just 2.9% of youth were dis­charged from a deten­tion alter­na­tive as the result of a new offense, an indi­ca­tor that JDAI pub­lic safe­ty goals are being met.
  • A review of Uni­form Crime Report data indi­cates juve­nile arrests were down in all 15 sites as com­pared to each site’s pre-JDAI year, for a total reduc­tion of 33.3%.

JDAI has also spurred sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings in New Jer­sey. The excess space cre­at­ed by pop­u­la­tion reduc­tions has allowed sev­er­al coun­ties to close deten­tion cen­ters and house their youth in oth­er coun­ties’ facilities.

These agree­ments result­ed in mil­lions of dol­lars in sav­ings for the send­ing coun­ties and sub­stan­tial rev­enue increas­es for the receiv­ing coun­ties, while pro­vid­ing bet­ter coor­di­nat­ed ser­vice for those who use the system.

New Jer­sey has been tremen­dous­ly suc­cess­ful in reduc­ing the num­ber of youth way­laid in deten­tion facil­i­ties while await­ing the out­come of their cas­es,” said Judge Glenn A. Grant, act­ing admin­is­tra­tive direc­tor for New Jer­sey courts.

As we con­tin­ue to serve as a mod­el for oth­er states, I want to thank our juve­nile judges and staff for their ded­i­ca­tion to our mis­sion and rec­og­nize the Casey Foun­da­tion for their ongo­ing sup­port in help­ing us pro­vide bet­ter ser­vice to our youth and to the public.”

The JJC is the lead agency for JDAI in New Jer­sey, pro­vid­ing the staffing infra­struc­ture inte­gral to the state’s suc­cess as a JDAI site. JDAI has earned the broad sup­port of state and local gov­ern­ment, exem­pli­fy­ing the best of inter­a­gency and inter­gov­ern­men­tal collaboration.

The Attor­ney General’s office and the Judi­cia­ry have been instru­men­tal in sup­port­ing JDAI. At the state lev­el, the New Jer­sey Coun­cil on Juve­nile Jus­tice Sys­tem Improve­ment (CJJSI) over­sees JDAI and con­sid­ers statewide pol­i­cy and prac­tice reforms. At the local lev­el, coun­ty CJJ­SIs are respon­si­ble for imple­ment­ing local reform strategies.

The results achieved through these JDAI part­ner­ships have brought New Jer­sey nation­al recog­ni­tion. In 2008 the Casey Foun­da­tion des­ig­nat­ed New Jer­sey a state Mod­el Site. To date, del­e­ga­tions from eight states – Ari­zona, Indi­ana, Mass­a­chu­setts, Min­neso­ta, Mis­souri, Neva­da, New Mex­i­co and Ohio – have par­tic­i­pat­ed in the state’s JDAI Mod­el Site Program.

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