Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

A project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) was designed to support the Annie E. Casey Foundation's vision that all youth involved in the juvenile justice system have opportunities to develop into healthy, productive adults. After more than a decade of innovation and replication, JDAI is one of the nation's most effective, influential, and widespread juvenile justice system reform initiatives. Since its inception in 1992, JDAI has repeatedly demonstrated that jurisdictions can safely reduce reliance on secure detention. There are now approximately 100 JDAI sites in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

JDAI promotes changes to policies, practices, and programs to reduce reliance on secure confinement, improve public safety, reduce racial disparities and bias, save taxpayers' dollars, and stimulate overall juvenile justice reforms. JDAI focuses on the juvenile detention component of the juvenile justice system because youth are often unnecessarily or inappropriately detained at great expense, with long-lasting negative consequences for both public safety and youth development. In 2003, the Annie E. Casey Foundation conducted an assessment of youth incarcerated in Louisiana's secure care facilities, finding that almost three quarters of youth incarcerated did not pose a risk to public safety. In 2006, five (5) parishes in Louisiana became JDAI pilot sites: Caddo, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Orleans, and Jefferson parishes.

Louisiana's JDAI sites are implementing eight interrelated core strategies including:
(1) Collecting and using accurate data; (2) Creating collaboration between the major juvenile justice agencies, other governmental entities, and community organizations; (3) Using objective admissions criteria and instruments; (4) Developing new or enhanced non-secure alternatives to detention; (5) Undergoing case processing reforms to reduce lengths of stay in custody, expand the availability of non-secure program slots, and ensure that interventions with youth are timely and appropriate; (6) Reducing racial disparities; (7) Improving conditions of confinement; and (8) Re-examining special detention cases - youth in custody as a result of probation violations, writs and warrants, as well as those awaiting placement to find alternatives, thereby minimizing their presence in the secure facility.

These sites have succeeded in dramatically reducing their detention numbers and improving their intake practices. In 2019, in part because of the success of the JDAI sites, the Louisiana Legislature passed detention reform that required all jurisdictions to use a detention screening instrument beginning in 2020 with a strong preference given to instruments developed by the JDAI Initiative.
The JDAI Initiative is currently seeking to expand into other jurisdictions outside of the original pilot sites. While the JDAI Initiative has not formally expanded beyond the original pilot sites, the JDAI principles have influenced detention practices around the state, leading to a substantial decrease in the detention population in Louisiana, improved services to detained youth, increased non-secure options for youth in the juvenile justice system, and shorter stays for youth in detention.

The Louisiana Public Defender Board is collaborating in each of the JDAI sites as well as at the state level to develop programs which institute evidence-based programs and support juvenile justice reform statewide.

Click here to learn more about Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

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