The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) has led a national call for improvements in the effectiveness and overall quality of juvenile confinement, including detention reform.
In 2001, CJJ began a multiyear partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore, Maryland, to promote and develop detention reform throughout the United States.
CJJ published a major report in 2003, "Unlocking the Future: Detention Reform in the Juvenile Justice System", which provides evidence to show that, contrary to popular belief, the majority of detained youth are not the older, violent offenders that the public assumes need to be under lock and key. Using strong evidence, the report demonstrates that juvenile court jurisdictions throughout the United States needlessly sweep into locked detention many young people with mental health, substance abuse and family problems—most of whom are 15 years or younger, nonviolent, and disproportionately youth of color.
To learn more about "Unlocking the Future," see 2003 Annual Report.
Changing the Conditions
CJJ will work with the Casey Foundation to advance the foundation’s long-range project, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. The partnership formed between CJJ and the Casey Foundation focuses on the following key objectives:
- To reduce the number of children inappropriately detained;
- To minimize the number of youth who fail to appear in court and incidence of delinquent behavior;
- To reduce public expenditures and redirect public funds toward successful reform strategies;
- To simultaneously improve public safety and conditions of juvenile confinement.
Because of its extensive, bipartisan and multidisciplinary links to state and local juvenile court professionals and service providers throughout the United States, CJJ is uniquely well-suited to turn the lessons of the Casey Foundation’s ground-breaking work with juvenile detention alternatives into concrete and sustainable actions that will serve the best interests of youth, families and communities.
A Groundbreaking Endeavor
The Annie E. Casey Foundation established the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in 1992 to prove that both young offenders and communities benefit when the excessive and inappropriate detention of juveniles is eliminated. Since its inception, JDAI has sparked major reform in the juvenile detention systems in Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon; Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; and Bernalillo County (Albuquerque), New Mexico, among others.
At each site, JDAI begins by using common goals to unite representatives from the different agencies—the juvenile courts, law enforcement, detention, probation, children and family services—that loosely constitute the juvenile court system. JDAI asks these representatives to reexamine how and why they detain young offenders. The initiative challenges them to prevent needless detention by improving the evaluation process used to determine which young offenders will be detained. JDAI also drives sites to use resources more effectively, alleviating overcrowding in detention facilities.
Every step in the JDAI movement is examined in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s "Pathways to Juvenile Detention Reform" Series. The JDAI publications series consists of 13 reports, which can be downloaded at http://www.aecf.org/publications.