A new report shows that reducing the use of pretrial juvenile detention, the jailing of youth not yet found delinquent, resulted in system-wide juvenile justice improvements. In three model sites that have followed key detention reform strategies, communities reduced racial disparities, sent fewer youth to state youth prisons, increased the involvement of families and youth in their rehabilitation, and improved the juvenile justice systems' ability to make appropriate decisions about where youth should be supervised to protect public safety and receive services.
The report, Beyond Detention: System Transformation through Juvenile Detention Reform, documents the reforms inspired by the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), a nationally-renowned data driven and outcome-based collaborative effort aimed at ensuring that detention is used only when appropriate. The initiative safely diverts young people to other forms of supervision. Research has shown that inappropriately detaining youth can contribute to future reoffending, jeopardize public safety, and reduce positive outcomes for young people.
Beyond Detention shows that in JDAI's model sites–which include Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), Multnomah County, Oregon, (Portland), and Santa Cruz, California– the initiatives strategies and approach have been a catalyst for system-wide reform, including:
• Keeping More Youth at Home and In the Community: The sites reduced the number of young people in out-of-home placements, reduced the number of youth sent to youth prisons, and increased reliance on community-based programs. The three model sites reduced the number of young people sentenced to youth prisons run by the state by between 44 and 74 percent.
• Promoting Racial Justice: While youth of color engage in delinquent behavior at rates similar to white youth, nearly two thirds of the youth detained in country are youth of color. In Multnomah County, JDAI's efforts to reduce racial disparities produced the nation's first empirical evidence that racial disparities in juvenile justice could be reduced.
• Increasing the Focus on Youth and their Families in Rehabilitation: Whereas in many systems, youth and their families are frequently an afterthought in juvenile court processes, JDAI sites involve young people and their parents in their rehabilitation. Young people on probation in Cook County now attend an orientation session led by the advisory council of former and current wards–a reform shown to reduce the probation violation rates of these youth.
• Helping Systems Make Better Decisions: JDAI's reliance on data collection and the adoption of objective decision-making tools helped ensure that youth were treated equally and received appropriate treatment and services. Sites have improved their ability to collect and analyze data, to monitor outcomes and improve programming.