What Is the JDAI Network?

Posted December 9, 2022, By Nate Balis

A young Black man sits smiling at an older Black man.

JDAI® is a nation­al net­work of reform­ers and juve­nile jus­tice pro­fes­sion­als work­ing to build bet­ter and more equi­table local youth jus­tice sys­tems. When JDAI began near­ly 30 years ago, the acronym stood for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive®. It still does, but, to me, the let­ters J‑D-A‑I have come to stand for more — defin­ing Casey’s broad­er aspi­ra­tions for juve­nile justice:

  • Just – com­mit­ted to equi­ty among youth of all races and eth­nic­i­ties and fair­ness for girls and LGBTQ youth.
  • Devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate – based on approach­es that help youth feel safe, devel­op a pos­i­tive sense of them­selves, learn and mature. 
  • Account­able – respon­si­ble for pur­su­ing best prac­tices, includ­ing con­tin­u­ous improve­ment and trans­paren­cy to the pub­lic about what and how it’s doing. 
  • Inclu­sive – con­nect­ed with fam­i­ly mem­bers and com­mu­ni­ty part­ners in encour­ag­ing youths’ pos­i­tive behav­ior change, per­son­al growth and long-term success. 

Pur­su­ing Youth Well-being and Long-term Success

The pur­suit of these val­ues, along with JDAI’s core strate­gies, anchor the JDAI net­work as its work evolves. What start­ed out as a move­ment against some­thing — the unnec­es­sary deten­tion of youth — has become one stand­ing for youth well-being and suc­cess. It stands for a future where all young peo­ple can real­ize their poten­tial, even when they make mistakes.

Sec­ond and third gen­er­a­tions of juve­nile jus­tice pro­fes­sion­als and advo­cates are build­ing on the lega­cy of JDAI’s pio­neers. They are keep­ing deten­tion reform at the heart of the work as they extend JDAI’s core strate­gies into oth­er areas.

For instance, juris­dic­tions are safe­ly and sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduc­ing all forms of out-of-home place­ment, espe­cial­ly for youth of col­or. They are using strate­gies that coun­ter­bal­ance the lega­cy of racial inequities and the poli­cies and prac­tices that cre­at­ed them, includ­ing the over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Black, Lati­no and Indige­nous youth in our legal system.

Apply­ing core JDAI prin­ci­ples — such as effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion and data-dri­ven deci­sion-mak­ing — juris­dic­tions are broad­en­ing reform goals, such as expand­ing the use of diver­sion and trans­form­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion.

Juris­dic­tions are adapt­ing to meet the moment, whether through height­ened aware­ness of racial equi­ty, devel­op­ing and strength­en­ing com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships or invest­ing in youth lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties.

It takes a vil­lage — a vil­lage of youth, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties; leg­is­la­tors; advo­cates; law enforce­ment; faith-based, racial equi­ty and phil­an­thropic com­mu­ni­ties; schools; pub­lic agen­cies and more — to keep young peo­ple away from the for­mal juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. And, when they encounter the sys­tem, that vil­lage must sup­port them with oppor­tu­ni­ties and con­nec­tions in their own com­mu­ni­ties based on rela­tion­ships with con­sis­tent, car­ing adults.

Tap­ping the Strength of the JDAI Network

What is the JDAI net­work? The JDAI net­work today is youth-serv­ing pro­fes­sion­als doing what­ev­er it takes to cre­ate, accel­er­ate and sus­tain a youth jus­tice sys­tem that is just, devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate, account­able and inclu­sive.

Thanks to Casey’s JDAIcon­nect, a vir­tu­al des­ti­na­tion for every­one inter­est­ed in youth jus­tice, the net­work is more con­nect­ed than at any time in JDAI’s his­to­ry. Mem­bers can log in for advice, cama­raderie, peer sup­port, inspi­ra­tion, train­ing and oth­er resources.

Learn More About the JDAI Network’s Work

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