This report, the third installment in a series devoted to revolutionizing detention programs and practices in America, has a clear message for jurisdictions: You can build a more objective, consistent, efficient and taxpayer-friendly admissions process. It also has a clear message for the hundreds of thousands of American children who are unfairly detained each year: Help is coming — and it starts here.
Strong admissions criteria clearly define who can — and cannot — be detained
Findings & Stats
An Overused Option
Most states have vague eligibility requirements that permit almost any child to be permitted to detention for almost any reason. In fact, on any given day, seven out of 10 youth in detention are charged with nonviolent acts of technical probations.
Before overhauling your admissions process, consider these five tips, courtesy of Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) sites who’ve been there, done that: 1) involve key stakeholders; 2) collect current admissions data; 3) consider using consultants; 4) engage frontline staff; and 5) seek out success stories from other sites.
Worth the Effort
Some incentives for reforming admission practices and policies include: Boosting staff and system accountability, cutting costs, enhancing public safety and improving conditions of confinement.
Model Move: Illinois
In exceptional cases, Cook County officials can override their RAI’s final score, but they must secure a supervisor’s approval before exercising this option.
Model Move: Oregon
By automating their RAI, Multnomah County eliminated human error as a factor in calculating RAI score tallies and gave supervisors the ability to quickly and easily analyze aggregate RAI scores.
Experts recommend that sites keep track of two key outcomes — rates of rearrest and failures to appear in court — and use this data to frequently validate how well their screening tools are working.
Statements & Quotations
Absent an effective screening tool, most jurisdictions have trouble placing the right youth in the right alternative programs. RAIs, however, provide a clear road map to such assignments.
Did the RAIs affect missions? The simple answer is yes. Sacramento substantially reduced the percentage of detention referrals admitted to secure custody once objective screening was implemented.
Altering admissions policies and practices is both difficult and often controversial. The best defense, JDAI sites learned, is a good offense. So be sure that the changes are well documented, clearly articulated and carefully implemented.
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