Strategies for the Successful Expansion of JDAI

Posted March 19, 2019, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Father talks with son

States that are accelerating the spread of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative® (JDAI) across their local jurisdictions now have a new resource to help inform their work.

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Scale-Up — written by the WestEd Justice and Prevention Center and commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation — draws lessons from the successes and challenges that four states experienced as they expanded JDAI® to more counties.

These states — Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Mexico — are home to more than 2 million young people between the ages of 10 and 17.

“Statewide replication of JDAI is important because it offers perhaps the most practical available means for states to make their juvenile justice systems more effective, more efficient and more just,” explains Gail D. Mumford, senior associate in the Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group.

Replicating JDAI widely — or taking it to scale — involves fully and faithfully using the JDAI’s eight core strategies to serve all or nearly all youth within a given state. Doing so eliminates disparate justice practices from county to county — sometimes called “justice by geography.”

To better understand each state’s experience taking JDAI to scale, researchers posed three questions:

  1. How is your juvenile justice system structure, history, motivation and leadership influenced the scale-up process?
  2. How have you implemented the eight core strategies as you move JDAI to scale?
  3. What successes, challenges and lessons learned have arisen through the scale-up process?

In their responses, the states reported success with improving conditions of confinement, using detention screening tools to guide admissions decisions, implementing validated tools to assess risk and using data to identify trends and patterns in the use of detention. The states also described common challenges associated with expanding JDAI. Many of these hurdles were related to:

  • staff and organizational capacity, such as communication between state and local leaders;
  • data quality, compatibility, uniformity and fidelity;
  • human resources and staff turnover;
  • establishing and sustaining the infrastructure needed to support expansion;
  • increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of participants in JDAI stakeholder groups across multiple jurisdictions; and
  • boosting the effectiveness of these same groups.

“Studying scale is a complex undertaking because we need to understand state and local context and the various factors influencing take-up over time — and those factors change with time, too,” notes Jeffrey Poirier, senior associate in the Casey Foundation’s Research, Evaluation, Evidence and Data unit.

Fortunately, the four states profiled have already culled some useful — and generally applicable — advice from their replication efforts. They recommend:

  • involving judiciary leadership early because judges can be particularly effective in advancing JDAI’s goals and building buy-in at the state and local levels.
  • developing a strong, inclusive state-level JDAI collaborative that involves community members, families, youth and government stakeholders.
  • using clear messaging about JDAI strategies and outcomes to create broad buy-in.
  • planning for data collection and management from the beginning; and
  • matching expansion efforts to the state’s ability to increase infrastructure support for JDAI.

Find out what’s needed to take JDAI to scale in your state

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