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Juvenile Court Initiatives

Annie E. Casey Foundation &
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)

Since 2005, the Courts, County Attorney's Office, Minneapolis Police, the city and schools began a colloboration to reduce the number of youth held in secure detention and to eliminate the racial disparities in juvenile justice while holding young people accountable for their behavior.  » Learn more...

The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) is presently working with the counties of Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota to develop Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiatives (JDAIs) which will be patterned after successful projects in several “model jurisdictions” elsewhere in the country. Though the grant is for three years, many other jurisdictions are continuing to work and re-evaluate 5–10 years after they’ve begun. Participating stakeholders include police, corrections including detention, juvenile court, county attorney, public defenders, schools, elected officials, community representatives, and others. Specific goals for Hennepin County are to reduce the overcrowding in detention and thereby improve the conditions of confinement by insuring that only those youth that are a threat to the public, or at risk to fail to appear are held, and to reduce the racial disparity that exists in the system.

Since 1948, the AECF has worked to build better futures for disadvantaged children and their families in the United States. The primary mission of the Foundation is to foster public policies, human service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today's vulnerable children and families. In pursuit of this goal, the Foundation makes grants that help states, cities and neighborhoods fashion more innovative, cost-effective responses to these needs.

To demonstrate that jurisdictions can establish more effective and efficient systems to accomplish the purposes of juvenile detention, the Foundation established the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in 1992. The objectives of JDAI are to reduce the number of children unnecessarily or inappropriately detained; to minimize the number of youth who fail to appear in court or re-offend pending adjudication; to redirect public funds toward successful reform strategies; and to improve conditions of confinement and to reduce the racial disparity in the system.

JDAI focuses on the detention phase of the juvenile justice process prior to trial or pending placement to a juvenile corrections program. Between 1985 and 2001, the number of youth held in detention centers nightly nationwide nearly doubled to 27,000. Yet less than one-third of detained youth are charged with violent crimes, and an alarming 62 percent are minorities. The AECF also addresses the subject of disproportionate minority contact (DMC) through its DMC initiatives.

In 1992, the AECF selected five jurisdictions as JDAI demonstration sites. Three—Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon; and Sacramento County, California—implemented comprehensive detention reform initiatives. Each developed screening processes to ensure that only high-risk teens were held in detention, launched alternative programs to supervise youth in the community, and improved case processing to reduce lengths of stay for those placed in locked detention. JDAI emphasizes collaboration and data-driven decision making. Examples of results include:

  • Cook County reduced its average daily population in locked detention from 693 to 454 between 1996 and 2003;
  • Multnomah County lowered the daily detention population by 65 percent and eliminated racial disparities in their detention population; savings were used to increase drug abuse and mental health treatment for troubled youth; and
  • Overall, the programs have been proven to reduce juvenile offender recidivism.

Since 1992, over sixty jurisdictions nationwide have benefited from similar reform initiatives.

Barb Karn of Hennepin County is the site coordinator/project manager for Hennepin. A Detention Reform Steering Committee will meet monthly and is chaired by Judge Tanya Bransford. During the initial phase, an AECF representative conducted a site systems assessment of existing Hennepin County procedures. He is documenting the process flow to understand case management procedures in Hennepin County and will be providing the committee with a written report. A project overview will be given at the spring Juvenile Court bench retreat.

Progress on JDAI is part of the strategic plan for Hennepin County District Court in the Juvenile Division. Plans for implementation include work on a risk assessment instrument, improving case processing and enhancing community alternatives to detention.


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