Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

In 1992, as a step towards meeting its vision, the Annie E. Casey Foundation established the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. Using detention as an entry point strategy, its primary target is overall juvenile justice system improvement.

Beginning with a handful of jurisdictions, the JDAI core strategies were proven to reduce unnecessary and inappropriate secure detention, reduce costs, increase system fairness and improve the juvenile justice system overall without compromising public safety.

Today, reform efforts are under way in over 150 jurisdictions in 38 states and the District of Columbia, and JDAI is now operational in those places responsible for almost 75 percent of the country's juveniles detained population.

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is designed to address the efficiency and effectiveness of juvenile detention across the United States. JDAI demonstrates that communities can improve their detention systems without sacrificing public safety. The goals of JDAI are to:

  1. decrease the number of youth unnecessarily or inappropriately detained;
  2. reduce the number of youth who fail to appear in court or re-offend pending adjudication;
  3. redirect public funds towards effective juvenile justice processes and public safety strategies;
  4. reduce the disproportionate minority confinement and contact of the juvenile justice system; and,
  5. improve the juvenile justice system overall.

JDAI is a process, not a conventional program, which means JDAI helps restructure policy and practice to create system improvements that reach far beyond detention alone. JDAI sites have demonstrated safe reductions in the number of youth detained through a set of interrelated strategies which include:

  1. collaboration among juvenile justice agencies, community organizations and other government agencies;
  2. the use of data in making policy and case-level decisions;
  3. objective instruments to guide detention decisions;
  4. operation of a continuum of non-secure detention alternatives;
  5. case processing efficiencies to reduce time between arrest and case disposition;
  6. safe reductions of special populations (e.g. violations of probation, warrants and cases awaiting placement);
  7. racial/ethnic fairness in policy and case-level decision-making; and,
  8. improving conditions of confinement.

By systematically addressing each of these areas, JDAI has proven that juvenile detention rates can be dramatically reduced without a corresponding increase in juvenile crime.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation officially accepted the State of Kansas as a JDAI site in 2011. This initiative was encouraged in Kansas through the efforts of the Johnson County Criminal Justice Advisory Council.

There are five counties in Kansas that are participating in this initiative: Johnson, Sedgwick, Wyandotte, Douglas and Shawnee. Together, these five sites represent about 75% of all local detention beds in Kansas.

Johnson County has formed a Collaborative Planning Group and has determined the Purpose of Detention and developed its Vision, Mission, and Guiding Principles. Much more work is left to be completed to achieve the goals of JDAI. This work will probably extend over a period of several years.