TRENTON - A delegation from the state of South Dakota, including representatives from the court system, Public Defender’s Office, State’s Attorney’s Office, the Director of Juvenile Community Corrections, and a legislator are in New Jersey to attend a two-day working session focusing on statewide implementation of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).
Kevin M. Brown, Executive Director, Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) and representatives of the New Jersey Courts and Office of the Attorney General addressed the delegation at the Princeton Marriot, describing the State of New Jersey’s successful detention reform.
“The ability to deprive someone of his or her freedom should never be taken lightly. It is even more significant when it involves young people. We know that one of the greatest predictors of re-offending is to have been incarcerated in the first place,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “JDAI has allowed New Jersey to maximize its resources, to keep low-level juvenile offenders in their communities and with their families, and to deliver critical rehabilitative services as arrest rates have continued to decrease.”
"We are pleased to welcome leaders from South Dakota as we make progress on our own statewide implementation of JDAI,” said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “The opportunity to discuss juvenile justice reform with colleagues from around the nation helps confirm our belief that this initiative can and does bring about positive changes.”
In April 2004, New Jersey was selected as an official replication site for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) and was awarded an annual grant of up to $200,000 by the Foundation. As the lead agency, the JJC works in partnership with the Judiciary, and other state and local agencies through the statewide Council on Juvenile Justice System Improvement (CJJSI) which guides the statewide initiative. Each participating county also relies on a local county council for collaboration, leadership, and data to make improvements in the county juvenile justice system.
"New Jersey has distinguished itself among the 39 JDAI states through outstanding results and a thoughtful approach to spreading detention reform statewide,’’ said Bart Lubow, Director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group. “No other state has built as impressive an infrastructure to stimulate change at the county level, nor mobilized as much political and administrative support. New Jersey can be commended for acting as a learning laboratory for these other states."
The results achieved through these JDAI partnerships have brought New Jersey significant recognition. While nationally JDAI is operational in 39 states, New Jersey is the only state to be designated as a national model for detention reform by the Casey Foundation. This designation was bestowed upon NJ in late 2008 as a result of the impressive outcomes New Jersey had achieved since JDAI inception. New Jersey receives funding from the Casey Foundation to support JDAI, and specifically to conduct two-day working sessions with delegations from other states interested in replicating New Jersey’s JDAI success. South Dakota is the twelfth state to participate in New Jersey’s JDAI “Model Site” Program. Delegations from Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Nebraska, and Washington State have also attended the workshops.
“New Jersey is very proud to serve as the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s model for statewide implementation of its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative,” said Brown. “We know that juveniles do not fully understand the consequences of their actions and that punishment alone does not always result in better behavior. In addition, there is an undisputed body of research that demonstrates that we can reduce delinquency and future criminal acts by not locking young people up in the first place. With a reduction in the use of detention by over 60 percent and an arrest rate that continues to decline, we know that we are turning around the lives of troubled youths while keeping our communities safe.”
Juvenile detention is a temporary placement of a youth accused of a delinquent act, while awaiting the final outcome of his or her case in court. The purpose of detention is to house youths who, by virtue of their alleged offenses or documented prior histories, pose serious threats to public safety or are thought to be flight risks.
A primary goal of JDAI is to make sure that secure detention is used only to ensure that serious and chronic youthful offenders are detained, and that effective alternatives are available for other youths who can be safely supervised in the community while awaiting final court disposition. The initiative provides a framework of strategies that help reduce the inappropriate use of secure juvenile detention, while maintaining public safety and court appearance rates. A major focus of the work is to reduce the disproportionate use of detention for minority youth.
Significant cost-savings have been realized as the result of JDAI in New Jersey. The excess space created by population reductions has allowed several counties to close their detention centers and house their youth in other counties’ facilities. These agreements resulted in millions of dollars of cost savings for the sending counties and substantial revenue increases for the receiving counties.
To date, 18 New Jersey counties are participating in JDAI, including Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Union and Warren. Cape May County and Sussex Counties are the most recently named JDAI counties to join the initiative.
For more information on JDAI, please visit: www.nj.gov/oag/jjc/localized_programs_jdai.html