Ohio Delegation Visits NJ To Study Juvenile Detention Reform Efforts

TRENTON – A delegation from the state of Ohio including judges, court administrators, representative from the Ohio Department of Youth Services, and other stakeholders, are in New Jersey to attend a two-day working session designed to help Ohio replicate New Jersey’s success in juvenile detention reform.

Deborah Edwards, AAG, Counsel to the Attorney General, Department of Law and Public Safety; Gloria R. Hancock, Ed.D., Acting Executive Director, Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC); and Harry T. Cassidy, Assistant Director of Family Practice, New Jersey Judiciary, opened the event at the Trenton War Memorial and addressed the delegation, praising the State of New Jersey’s successes.

“Every day, in every state, young people are held in secure detention centers not because they need to be there, but because so few other options exist,” stated New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa. “I am proud to say that New Jersey is changing its juvenile justice system and redirecting young lives without negative consequences to public safety. “

“We are delighted to welcome delegates from Ohio to talk to them about our efforts to reform the juvenile justice system,” said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “We are committed to moving forward with statewide implementation of JDAI and are pleased to share our experiences with other states.”

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 works 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.

The results achieved through these JDAI partnerships have brought New Jersey significant recognition. While nationally JDAI is operational in more than 125 local jurisdictions spanning 30 states, New Jersey is the only state to be designated as a national model for detention reform by the Casey Foundation. This designation was bestowed upon NJ in late 2008 as a result of the impressive outcomes New Jersey has achieved since JDAI inception. New Jersey receives funding from the Casey Foundation to support JDAI, and to specifically conduct two-day working sessions with delegations from other states interested in replicating New Jersey’s JDAI success. To date, delegations from seven states, including Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico, have participated in New Jersey’s JDAI “Model Site” Program.

“As the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative continues to expand, New Jersey has significantly reduced the unnecessary use of juvenile detention, while maintaining community safety,” said Dr. Gloria R. Hancock, the acting executive director of the Juvenile Justice Commission. “New Jersey is proud to be the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s model state and we are pleased to help expand JDAI in other states.”

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 serious threats to public safety or are thought to be flight risks.

A primary goal of JDAI is to make sure 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.

  • Comparing the year prior to JDAI in each site to the current year, across all 15 sites, average daily population has decreased by 54.8 percent. On any given day, there were 446 fewer youth in secure detention, with youth of color accounting for 89.7 percent of this drop.
  • Comparing the year prior to JDAI in each site to 2011, collectively across sites, more than six-thousand (6,098) fewer youth were admitted to detention, a decrease of 59.8 percent.
  • Since JDAI implementation, the number of youth admitted to detention for noncompliance with the rules of probation dropped 65.0 percent. Additionally, youth admitted to detention for failing to appear in court decreased by 53.7 percent, and the number of youth admitted for other violations, rule noncompliance, or non-delinquency matters dropped by 33.2 percent.
  • The number of girls in detention on any given day has decreased by 68.6 percent across the 15 sites.
  • In 2011, across the twelve sites reporting detention alternative outcome data, an average of just 2.9 percent of youth were discharged from a detention alternative program as the result of a new delinquency charge, an indicator that JDAI public safety goals are being met.
  • A review of Uniform Crime Report data indicates that in 2010 (the most recent year for which the Uniform Crime Report is available) juvenile arrests were down in all 15 sites as compared to each site’s pre-JDAI year, for a total reduction of 33.3 percent, another indication that JDAI public safety goals are being met.

Significant cost-savings have been realized as the result of JDAI in New Jersey. The excess space created by population reductions has allowed several counties to close their detention centers and house their youth in other counties’ facilities. These agreements resulted in millions of dollars of cost savings for the sending counties and substantial revenue increases for the receiving counties.

As of 2012, 16 New Jersey counties were implementing JDAI: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Union and Warren. Of the 16 counties, 9 currently operate secure juvenile detention centers.

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