MIDDELSEX COUNTY – Middlesex County marked the beginning of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in Middlesex County Friday at the Family Courthouse.
Launched in 1992 by the private charitable organization, Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is currently in place in 13 of the state’s 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Union, and now Middlesex.
A primary goal of JDAI is to ensure secure detention is used only for serious and chronic youthful offenders, and that effective alternatives are available for other youth who can be safely supervised in the community while awaiting final court disposition.
“These alternatives for youth are more appropriate options, where they will be taught life skills and strategies to help them mature into productive, responsible adults,” said Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano.
The initiative provides a framework of strategies that help reduce the inappropriate and unnecessary use of secure detention, while maintaining public safety and court appearance rates. A major focus of the work is reducing the disparate use of detention for minority youth.
Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti, co-chair of Middlesex County Council for Children’s Services says, “Reducing the disproportionate representation of minority youth in the detention center has long been a goal of the Council and JDAI will provide us with additional tools to accomplish this important task.”
Through the program, youthful offenders who can be safely supervised in the community while awaiting their outcomes in court will have alternatives to incarceration including: home confinement, house arrest, electronic monitoring and day and evening reporting centers.
“JDAI presents a unique partnering opportunity between the Judiciary, County and Juvenile Justice Commission to improve the quality and effectiveness of the juvenile justice system,” said Judge Deborah J. Venezia.
Each participating JDAI county establishes a local Council on Juvenile Justice System Improvement that relies on collaboration, leadership, and data to make improvements in the county juvenile detention system. The Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) and the New Jersey Judiciary work in partnership with other state and local agencies to guide and support the statewide implementation of JDAI. The Annie E. Casey Foundation provides a grant to the JJC to support statewide JDAI implementation, and the JJC provides direct support to participating counties through its team of detention specialists and through various technical assistance opportunities. Because of its success in implementing JDAI statewide, the Foundation has designated New Jersey the first state model for juvenile detention reform. New Jersey JDAI statistics are available at http://www.nj.gov/oag/jjc/localized_programs.html
“Throughout the counties implementing JDAI in 2009 in New Jersey, the use of detention has been reduced by almost 43%, saving taxpayer dollars without negative consequences to public safety,” said JJC Executive Director Veleria N. Lawson. “The JJC is excited to begin working with Middlesex County and looks forward to making continued reductions in the use of secure detention and creating opportunities for young people.”
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