Replicating Detention Reform

Lessons from the Florida Detention Initiative

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

April 2, 2001


 This report, the 12th installment in a series devoted to revolutionizing detention programs and practices in America, tells the stories of two initiatives: The success of a local effort to make smarter decisions about reducing detention center populations and the unequivocal failure of a subsequent drive to expand those achievements statewide. Paired together, these opposing outcomes serve as a cautionary tale—and underscore the unique obstacles and opportunities associated with multi-site reform.  

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

Identifying the reasons the Broward Detention Initiative succeeded

Three reasons that the Broward Detention Initiative succeeded in reducing detention center populations: 1) key leaders from multiple agencies were involved in the initiative’s planning and development process; 2) baseline data established a clear starting point — including initial practices and problem areas; and 3) the timing was right; a federal lawsuit jumpstarted reform efforts and focused all parties on resolving overcrowding concerns.

Findings & Stats

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Fickle Politics

The 1994 Juvenile Justice Reform Act had one clear mission: Protect public safety. It authorized the creation of new detention beds while expanding who was eligible for confinement and how long they could be detained. Just four years earlier, however, lawmakers had greenlit a drastically different plan. They had voted to shrink detention center populations, narrow eligibility criteria and invest in alternatives to confinement as part of a concerted effort to put the safety and wellbeing of children first.

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A Frustrating Finish Line

At the end of the FDI, the detention centers in Orlando, Hillsborough and Marion were operating well above capacity and detaining more juveniles than just four years prior. Even worse, these sites had made little to no gains in developing non-secure detention alternatives.

Statements & Quotations