Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)

In 1992, as a step towards meeting its vision, the Annie E Casey Foundation established the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). Using detention as an entry point strategy, its primary target is overall Juvenile Justice System improvement.


Beginning with a handful of jurisdictions, the JDAI core strategies were proven to reduce unnecessary and inappropriate secure detention, reduce costs, increase system fairness and improve the juvenile justice system overall without compromising public safety.

JDAI demonstrates that communities can improve their detention systems without sacrificing public safety. In 2011, Pinal County Juvenile Court Services partnered with the Casey Foundation as a cohort of five sites to expand JDAI in Arizona. Eight of fifteen counties are currently participating in JDAI, with the goal of statewide expansion of the initiative.

The JDAI model is built around the following eight core inter-related strategies:

  1.  Promoting collaboration between the juvenile court, probation agencies, prosecutors, defense attorneys, child welfare, mental health agencies, schools, community organizations, and other governmental entities to form a partnership to cooperatively plan, implement and assess system reforms
  2.  Collection and utilization of data to drive policy and case-level decisions, assess the impact of various reforms and assure that decisions are guided by facts
  3.  Utilizing objective admissions criteria and risk assessment instruments  to determine whether youth should be placed into secure detention facilities based on public safety risks
  4.  Implementing new or enhanced non-secure alternatives to detention programs  - such as evening reporting centers, community custody programs, and shelter care - that can be used in lieu of secure detention
  5.  Instituting case processing reforms that expedite the flow of cases through the system, reduce lengths of stay in secure detention, expand the availability of non-secure program slots and ensure that interventions with youth are timely and appropriate
  6.  Reducing the number of "special" detention cases such as probation violations  or rule violations, failing to appear in court, and the youth held in secure detention awaiting transfer to a residential placement facility
  7.  Persistent and determined attention to combating racial and ethnic disparities  by examining data to identify policies and practices that may disadvantage youth of color at various stages of the process, and pursuing strategies to ensure a more level playing field for youth regardless of race or ethnicity
  8.  Monitoring of conditions of confinement for youth in secure in detention facilities to ensure that detention facilities are safe and appropriate care is provided

By systematically addressing each of these areas, JDAI has proven that juvenile detention rates can be dramatically reduced without a corresponding increase in juvenile crime.