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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.

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.

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

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is a site-based effort to reduce the use of detention — the holding of youth before adjudication — and increase more effective interventions.

Reducing Youth Incarceration

A jurisdiction-level reform effort to reduce the number of youth in correctional facilities and other out-of-home placements. Learn more about what can be done to reduce youth incarceration now.

Related Resources

Listening to Black Women and Girls

This report, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shares insights and recommendations garnered from focus groups with black girls and women. The topic? Adultification bias—the perception that black girls are less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers of the same age. This publication follows a 2017 report by the same researchers, called Girlhood Interrupted, that examined the quantitative ramifications of adultification bias. 

The Color of Justice

This report explores how psychology and America’s mental health system — including shortcomings in prevention, early intervention and treatment programs — contribute to the over-representation of youth of color in the juvenile justice landscape.

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