Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in Indiana
October 31, 2009 by Jeffrey Bercovitz
The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is a project of the Anne E. Casey Foundation, which began in 1992 its nationwide effort to reduce the population of juveniles in detention. It is now having a significant impact in Indiana.
JDAI promotes changes to policies, practices, and programs to reduce reliance on secure confinement, improve public safety, reduce racial disparities and bias, save taxpayer dollars, and stimulate overall juvenile justice reforms. 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 24 states and the District of Columbia.
The Marion County Juvenile Detention Center in Indianapolis is one of these sites.
Marion Superior Courts in 2006 invited the Anne E. Casey Foundation to bring JDAI to Indianapolis. This nationwide program designed to reduce juvenile detention and increase the use of alternatives to detention has been very effective in reducing the number of youths held in Marion County’s Juvenile Detention Center. The leadership of judges, probation department officials, and others were essential to its successful implementation.
This initiative provides various resources to local jurisdictions attempting to reduce juvenile detention center populations. JDAI emphasizes the need to gather good data concerning the juveniles in detention and to make good decisions based on that information. The Anne E. Casey Foundation provides technical assistance, staff training, educational materials and the opportunity to travel to model sites for a discussion of shared experiences. Their staff also provides assistance to each local site in developing criteria to assess local detention practices. The assessment includes a review of collaboration efforts with other community juvenile related entities, alternatives to detention, intake practices, case processing, the confinement environment, and reduction of racial disparities.
The goal of JDAI is to reduce the use of juvenile detention. In 2006, Marion County’s Juvenile Detention Center, with a rated bed capacity of 144, often held as many as 200 children each night. A 20-member JDAI Steering Committee was formed in June 2006 to collaborate on solutions to this overcrowding. The members of the Steering Committee were chosen from both inside and outside Marion County. It included professionals with juvenile justice expertise from Indiana University, Indiana Judicial Center, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, Indiana Department of Education, and Indiana Department of Correction. There were representatives of advocacy organizations including Mental Health Association of Indiana, Indiana Youth Services Association, and Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis. Local members also included representatives from the mayor’s office, city-county council, judges, probation officers, chief public defender, chief deputy prosecutor, and local law enforcement.
Grant monies are available through
a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant
Judge Frank A. Orlando, a retired juvenile court judge from Florida, was assigned by the Foundation to advise Indianapolis on its new initiative. Subcommittees were formed to look into all aspects of the local juvenile justice system impacting juvenile detention: Case Processing, Detention Admissions, Special Detention Populations, Detention Alternatives, and Detention Utilization. The stakeholders represented agreed on policies that could be used to reduce reliance on juvenile detention.
The Steering Committee and the subcommittees met with one goal – to reduce the numbers of juveniles in detention without a negative effect on public safety. Gael Deppart, an attorney working for the juvenile court, provided staff assistance to the Steering Committee and the subcommittees. The committees looked into many areas which affect the number of juveniles in detention, in order to reduce their numbers. A major emphasis was the development and validation of a risk assessment instrument for use by detention staff when a child was brought to the detention center in order to determine whether the juvenile needed to be admitted into the Center. An initial hearing court began hearing cases to again steer juveniles out of detention who did not need to be there and/or reduce the time in the facility.
Data collection and analysis is a critical component of the JDAI initiative. The tracking and analysis of data is needed to show the changes that are and are not working. Data collection was greatly improved as part of the JDAI program providing profiles of the youth in detention including the impact of court policies on detention. New offenses, probation violations, failure to appear rates, disproportionate minority confinement rates, and the impact of various new polices on the juveniles being held in detention could also be reviewed. The improved data collection was critical to getting a view of each point in the juvenile system where a juvenile could be detained and whether alternatives to detention could be used.
One of the activities of the JDAI program included the opportunity for trips by key local decision makers to visit model JDAI sites around the country. One such visit was to Multnomah County (Portland, Oregon) where a reception center is used as an alternative to detention for screening and assessment of status offenders. Local law enforcement officers bring youth to this center rather than to detention, where the juvenile receive appropriate services. This was the impetus for the first juvenile reception center in Indianapolis located at 4144 North Keystone Avenue, which permits delinquents to access appropriate social services rather than spending time in the juvenile detention center.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute has a State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice which has recommended the expansion of JDAI to other counties on a statewide basis. Grant monies are available through a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG). See this website for more details: www.in.gov/cji/2425.htm.