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Our Work in Juvenile Justice

The Foundation’s juvenile justice reform agenda is designed to improve the odds that at-risk youth can make successful transitions to adulthood. We are working to create a system that locks up fewer youth and relies more on proven, family-focused interventions that create opportunities for positive youth development. This is how we are addressing the issue:

Spearheading a national movement to reform detention — a crucial early phase of the juvenile court process — by reducing overreliance on temporary confinement for youth awaiting their court dates.

Begun as a pilot project in five jurisdictions in the 1990s, the Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) reform model is now being implemented in more than 250 U.S. counties.

Participating JDAI sites have reduced their daily detention populations by 43% since joining the initiative while maintaining or improving public safety.

In 2009, the New York Times published an editorial lauding JDAI’s “astonishing” results and recommending that the model “deserve[s] to be replicated nationwide.”

Promoting reforms to reduce incarceration and other out-of-home placements for delinquent youth.

A ground-breaking study, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Reliance on Juvenile Incarceration, shows that America’s overreliance on youth incarceration is dangerous, ineffective, obsolete, wasteful and unnecessary, while providing no net benefit to public safety. The Foundation updated those findings four years later in Maltreatment of Youth in U.S. Juvenile Corrections Facilities.

We have expanded JDAI to focus on the “deep end” of the juvenile justice system — reducing long-term placements into correctional institutions and other facilities. Casey’s Juvenile Justice Strategies Group is piloting efforts in six local JDAI sites, as well as Georgia, to devise and implement reforms aimed at reducing the number of children removed from home in the delinquency court process.

Over the past decade, the Foundation has undertaken several intensive projects to help states and localities analyze and reorient their juvenile justice policies, leading to significant shifts away from juvenile incarceration in Alabama, New York City, Washington, D.C., and other jurisdictions.

Advancing a key set of principles related to juvenile justice reforms.

Youth should remain at home and be supervised in the community rather than being separated from their families and placed into correctional institutions or other residential facilities when they do not pose a significant risk to public safety.

Rigorous data collection and careful data analysis are critical to success in juvenile justice reform. Objective data-driven decision tools should guide treatment at all stages of the juvenile court process.

Racial and ethnic disparities in our nation’s juvenile systems must be addressed. Vigorous efforts to identify and change policies and practices that disadvantage youth of color are vitally important.

Systems must engage families and involve them in all aspects of their children’s cases.

Violence and maltreatment remain widespread in juvenile corrections and detention facilities nationwide. Juvenile corrections agencies have a profound obligation to address these problems and provide safe and humane care to youth in their custody.

Current Strategies

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)

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JDAI is a network of juvenile justice practitioners and other system stakeholders across the country working to build a better and more equitable youth justice system. Learn more about what happens in a juvenile detention center and the importance of juvenile detention alternatives now!

Reducing Youth Incarceration

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Learn about jurisdiction-level reform and efforts to reduce the number of youth placed into correctional institutions and other residential facilities.

Related Resources

Resources for Juvenile Probation Reform

A roundup of resources, produced or funded by the Casey Foundation, that provide key tips, tools and recommendations for transforming juvenile probation. Review the collection.

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