Nate Balis, director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, has sounded an alarm about a slowing of progress and an increase in the length of time youth are being incarcerated in some of the 300 sites of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Foundation-sponsored initiative (JDAI), Balis noted that much of the rapid growth in reducing youth incarceration happened between 2002 and 2012, but that progress is slowing.
The average length of detention has increased in some sites by 40 percent or more. “These days, most detention facilities have empty beds, so the need to move kids out can feel less urgent. That’s understandable, but it’s not consistent with [the initiative’s] values.” The project “works much better when law enforcement is actively involved,” Balis said, adding that, “In many sites law enforcement leaders are not. That needs to change. … Most importantly, law enforcement is the key player at the stage of the system where racial and ethnic disparities are by far the greatest. If we are ever going to make wholesale improvements in racial equity, law enforcement just has to be actively at the table.”