New Jersey Credits JDAI for Statewide 50 Percent Decrease of Detention Population

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Photo credit: Ryan Schill

New Jersey’s juvenile detention population dropped by more than 50 percent from 1997 to 2010, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest KIDS COUNT data snapshot, released last week.

The state Office of the Attorney General(OAG) cited the state’s 16-county implementation of the AECF’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) as a major catalyst for the state’s drastic drop in juvenile detention numbers, the sixth-largest overall state decrease recorded by the Casey Foundation over the nearly decade and a half evaluation period.

“JDAI continues to be a great story in New Jersey,” Judge Glenn A. Grant, current acting administrative director of the courts, said in an OAG news release. “The collaboration among government agencies, including the Juvenile Justice Commission and county and social service agencies, along with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is clearly bringing benefits to our youth and our communities at large.”

The news releases states New Jersey has been named by the AEFC the “model” for states wishing to implement JDAI programs. At least eight states, including Massachusetts and Nevada, have sent delegates to New Jersey seeking guidance on how to install the JDAI in their own states.

Numerous detention alternative programs have been established in New Jersey via the JDAI. According to the state OAG, 97 percent of young people placed in the programs complete their placements “without a new delinquency event” transpiring.

Kevin M. Brown, Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) acting executive director, said that prior to the implementation of the JDAI program, New Jersey’s detention facilities were often being operated at levels that were beyond the “individual capacities” of the centers.

“They were filled with low level offenders, not because they met the requirements for detention, but because there were no reasonable alternatives to incarceration,” he said in the news release. “The JJC, in cooperation with its partners including the Judiciary, is successfully changing the system of juvenile justice in New Jersey, thereby ensuring that juveniles’ needs are met and that public safety is maintained.”

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