Arizona Visits New Jersey To Study Juvenile Detention Reform Efforts

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TRENTON – A delegation from the state of Arizona, including judges, court administrators, probation chiefs, law enforcement representatives, and other stakeholders, are in New Jersey to attend a two-day working session designed to help Arizona replicate the state’s success in juvenile detention reform.

Dr. Gloria R. Hancock, Acting Executive Director, Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) and Harry T. Cassidy, Assistant Director of Family Practice, New Jersey Judiciary, opened the event at Thomas Edison State College and addressed the delegation, praising the State of New Jersey’s successes.

“We are honored and pleased to receive the Arizona delegation and talk about our multi-agency reform initiative,” said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “New Jersey’s effort to reduce the juvenile detention population and maintain public safety has been tremendously successful because of a commitment to work across agency lines to achieve a shared goal.”

In April 2004, New Jersey was selected as an official replication site for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) and was awarded an annual grant of up to $200,000 by the Foundation. As the lead agency, the JJC worked in partnership with the Judiciary, and other state and local agencies through the statewide Council on Juvenile Justice System Improvement (CJJSI), which guides the statewide initiative. Each participating county also relies on a local county council for collaboration, leadership, and data to make improvements in the county juvenile justice system.

In November 2008, the Casey Foundation named New Jersey as the first JDAI model state site in the country. This designation requires that New Jersey provide jurisdictions with guidance in successfully implementing juvenile justice system reform. Through funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, six states (Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Mexico) have already sent delegations to New Jersey to learn about statewide JDAI implementation.

“Every day, in every state, too many young people are held in secure detention centers unnecessarily because no other options exist,” said New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow. “As a result of implementing the principles of JDAI, New Jersey is changing our juvenile justice system and changing young lives without negative consequences to public safety. It is our pleasure to share our experiences with the state of Arizona and other states.”

A primary goal of JDAI is to make certain that secure detention is used only to ensure that serious and chronic youthful offenders are detained, and that effective alternatives are available for other youths who can be safely supervised in the community while awaiting final court disposition. The initiative provides a framework of strategies that help reduce the inappropriate use of secure juvenile detention, while maintaining public safety and court appearance rates. A major focus of the work is to reduce the disproportionate use of detention for minority youth.

Juvenile detention is a temporary placement of a youth accused of a delinquent act, while awaiting the final outcome of his or her case in court. The purpose of detention is to house youths who, by virtue of their alleged offenses or documented prior histories, pose a serious threat to public safety or are thought to be a flight risk.

“Due to the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, New Jersey continues to make great strides in reducing the unnecessary use of juvenile detention, while maintaining community safety,” said Dr. Gloria R. Hancock, JJC Acting Executive Director. “New Jersey is proud to be the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s model state and to help other states expand JDAI throughout their states.”

Since JDAI’s inception, juvenile arrests have continued to decline, thus demonstrating that JDAI is an effective public safety strategy. In 2010, juvenile arrests were down in all active JDAI sites, as compared to each site’s pre-JDAI year. In total, the sites experienced a reduction of juvenile arrests of more than 35%.

As of 2011, 15 New Jersey counties were implementing JDAI: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Union, and Warren. Of the 15 counties, 9 currently operate secure juvenile detention centers. The JDAI Annual Data Report for 2010 demonstrates that JDAI is safely reducing the unnecessary use of secure detention for New Jersey’s youth. The report documents annual trends in the use of county-operated juvenile detention centers, and indicates that the 12 New Jersey JDAI sites active in 2010 made significant reductions in admissions for low-level offenders.

When comparing the year prior to JDAI implementation to 2010 in the twelve active JDAI sites, the average daily population decreased by more than 51 percent.

On any day, there were 381 fewer youth in secure detention, with youth of color accounting for slightly more than 90 percent of this drop.

Collectively across the sites, more than 5,000 fewer youth were admitted to detention, a decrease of almost 54 percent.

Over the past year alone, JDAI sites have reduced the total number of juveniles admitted to detention for technical violations of probation by 13.5 percent.

Across the eleven sites reporting detention alternative outcome data, 96% of youth completed their alternative without a new delinquency charge.

As the result of JDAI in New Jersey, excess space created by significant population reductions has allowed several counties to close their detention centers and merge their populations with other counties. Warren, Gloucester, Passaic, Sussex, and Monmouth counties closed their juvenile detention centers by the end of 2010 and entered into agreements with other counties to house their juveniles. These agreements resulted in millions of dollars of cost savings for the sending counties and substantial revenue increases for the receiving counties of Camden, Essex, Morris, and Middlesex.

To view the JDAI 2010 Annual Report, visit: http://www.nj.gov/oag/jjc/pdf/JDAI-2010-Report-Annual.pdf


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