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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