Juvenile Law Center

Juvenile and Criminal Justice

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has spurred reforms across the country that reduce unnecessary reliance on secure confinement of youth, improve public safety, cut costs, and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. Juvenile Law Center assists individual jurisdictions in identifying and implementing state-level policy changes needed to sustain reforms and to take JDAI to scale across the state. We also provide training and education to help shape state and federal detention policies.

The decision of whether to detain a child pending an adjudicatory hearing is crucial, since “placement into a locked detention center pending court significantly increases the odds that youth will be found delinquent and committed to corrections facilities.”1 Moreover, there is severe disproportionality along lines of race in detention, which, in turn, contributes to racial disparities in secure confinement of youth.2

Begun two decades ago in a handful of pilot sites, JDAI now operates in almost 300 counties in the United States. JDAI works to change local practices through its eight core strategies: increasing collaboration among stakeholders, gathering and responding to data, implementing objective screening tools, creating alternatives to detention, ensuring efficient case processing, reducing racial disparities, improving conditions of confinement, addressing special detention populations, such as those who violate probation or fail to appear in court. In recent years, JDAI has given heightened attention to state-level work, with a goal of ensuring that the gains made at the county level are replicated across the states, embedded in state policy, and sustained over time.

Juvenile Law Center’s work relies on our publication, Embedding Detention Reform in State Statutes, Court Rules and Regulations: A Guide to Detention Reform, as a blueprint for providing assistance to individual jurisdictions. The publication provides a comprehensive set of ideas for state-level policy change, with examples of state statutes, regulations, and court rules, and tools to help advocates, agencies, and policy-makers identify needed reforms.


Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative 2014 Progress Report

Last updated: 2/10/2015

Support Juvenile Law Center

One of the most important lessons from our 40 years of experience is that children involved with the justice and foster care systems need zealous legal advocates. Your support for our work is more important now than ever before. Support