The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to change policies, practices, and programs to reduce reliance on secure confinement, improve public safety, reduce racial disparities and bias, save taxpayer dollars, and stimulate overall juvenile justice reforms. A basic premise of the program is drawn from research that children who are detained are more likely to be removed from the community long-term, which disrupts connections to schools, services, and family with lasting impacts to educational and employment levels. An overview of the program can be found here.
Indiana was originally a “county site” with only Marion County participating since 2006. Since inception in Marion County, detention rates have dropped more than 50% without sacrificing public safety.
Indiana is touted as the first state to attempt to implement JDAI statewide. Johnson, Lake, Porter, and Tippecanoe counties were next to enter the program. Clark, Elhart, and Howard counties next began the process of building the necessary framework to become JDAI sites. The Youth Law Team is the JDAI Statewide Coordinator and useful information can be found on their website. There are currently twenty-three detention centers in Indiana (the graphic linked does not include Wernle in Wayne County that opened in 2013).
A challenge going forward is to figure out detention alternatives in rural counties, where there may be too few juveniles to justify a day or evening reporting program, where there may be no shelter care available in the community, where home detention may be cost-prohibitive or not available at all, etc. In the long-term, it will not be enough to focus on counties with detention centers, as every county must develop a strategy for offering alternative services and programs to their children. As dollars shift away from residential treatment and detention, current providers and the community mental health centers need to be creative about using existing buildings and finding the necessary staff to supply services for the new detention-alternative model.
Indiana must continue to fight geographic disparity where urban children have different access to services and outcomes than their rural counterparts based solely on the county of residence.