TRENTON – Advocates for Children of New Jersey today released a special juvenile justice Kids Count report entitled, “Measuring Change in New Jersey’s Treatment of Young Offenders.” The report details the successful reforms in juvenile justice since the implementation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in New Jersey.
The report documents the dramatic reduction in New Jersey’s use of secure detention over the past eight years, saving millions in taxpayer dollars, while maintaining public safety and putting more youth on a path to productive adulthood.
The initiative is a partnership among state agencies, including the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC), the Attorney General’s Office, the Judiciary, and the Office of the Public Defender, and participating counties.
“This report chronicles important, positive change as a result of New Jersey’s commitment to juvenile detention reform,” said Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa. “A young person’s placement in the juvenile justice system should not depend on whether he or she comes from a suburb or one of our urban centers. It should not depend on race, ethnicity or gender. In New Jersey, many individuals and agencies have worked together successfully to establish a fair and consistent approach to juvenile justice, while at the same time maintaining public safety and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.”
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 New Jersey Council on Juvenile Justice System Improvement (CJJSI), which guides the statewide initiative. Each participating county also relies on a local county council for collaboration and leadership, and to make data-driven improvements in the county juvenile justice system.
The initiative started as a pilot program in five counties. By 2011, 15 counties were part of the initiative: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Union and Warren. This year, Gloucester joined for a total of 16 counties now participating.
“I want to thank Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for recognizing the significant improvements that have been made in New Jersey’s juvenile justice system. New Jersey has been very proud to serve as the model for the statewide implementation of JDAI since 2008, allowing eight states to send delegations to New Jersey to learn from our successes,” said Kevin M. Brown, Acting Executive Director, JJC. “This special Kids Count report brings years of data together to demonstrate that reform is working. Secure juvenile detention in New Jersey is being used appropriately, and young people, their families, communities, and taxpayers across this state are benefiting.”
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.
Research shows that youth who are detained are more likely to commit another crime, more likely to have trouble in school and will encounter more difficulty in finding a job. The research also provides no evidence that putting children in detention improves public safety.
Appropriate youth are now diverted to detention alternatives, such as electronic and in-home monitoring systems, day and evening reporting centers and other non-detention means of supervision. In addition, many of these young people are provided with services, such as job training and mentoring, to address the issues that led to criminal behavior, as well as given supports to meet the conditions of their probation.
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 55 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 60 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.
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 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 eight states, including Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and Ohio have participated in New Jersey’s JDAI “Model Site” Program.
To view the report, visit: www.acnj.org.