BY TOM HESTER SR.
The state Juvenile Justice Commission Thursday released the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Data Report for 2011, which shows that the joint initiative of the JJC, New Jersey Judiciary, and numerous county agencies.
Fewer non-violent New Jersey juveniles were held in detention in 2011, according to a state Juvenile Justice Commission report made public Thursday.
When compared to 2010, figures from 15 county-run juvenile detention centers show the average daily population decreased by 54.8 percent. On any given day, there were 446 fewer juveniles in secure detention, with minority youth accounting for 89.7 percent of the decline.
Comparing 2010 to 2011, 6,098 fewer juveniles were admitted to detention, a decrease of 59.8 percent.
Since the effort to reduce detentions began, the number of juveniles admitted to detention for noncompliance with the rules of probation dropped 65 percent. Additionally, juveniles admitted to detention for failing to appear in court decreased by 53.7 percent, and the number of juveniles 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 decreased by 68.6 percent across the 15 sites.
In 2011, the 12 sites reporting data, an average of just 2.9 percent of juveniles were discharged from a detention alternative program as the result of a new delinquency charge.
A review of Uniform Crime Report data indicates that in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, juvenile arrests were down in all 15 sites as compared to 2010, for a total reduction of 33.3 percent.
The reports states that significant cost-savings have been realized as the result of the so-called Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). The excess space created by population reductions has allowed several counties to close their detention centers and house juveniles in other counties’ facilities. The report states the agreements resulted in millions of dollars of cost savings for the sending counties and substantial revenue increases for the receiving counties.
The report documents annual trends in the use of county-operated juvenile detention centers. The report presents information for the 15 detention facilities that were active throughout 2011 including, Atlantic, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Bergen, Burlington, Mercer, Ocean, Union, Passaic, Somerset, Middlesex, Cumberland, and Warren.
“Due to the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, New Jersey continues to make great strides in reducing the unnecessary use of juvenile detention, while maintaining community safety,” Juvenile Justice Commission Director Gloria R. Hancock said. “JDAI is a partnership. By working together, we will continue to examine and improve our juvenile justice system and expand the reach of JDAI.’’
“New Jersey has been tremendously successful in reducing the number of youth waylaid in detention facilities while awaiting the outcome of their cases,” Judge Glenn A. Grant said. “As we continue to serve as a model for other states, I want to thank our juvenile judges and staff for their dedication to our mission and recognize the Casey Foundation for their ongoing support in helping us provide better service to our youth and to the public.”
In 2004, the Annie E. Casey Foundation selected New Jersey to be among the first states to replicate the nationally recognized JDAI. JDAI was developed in response to national trends reflecting a drastic increase in the use of secure detention for juveniles despite decreases in juvenile arrests, and the resulting overcrowding of youth detention centers nationwide.
In New Jersey, for example, between 1993 and 2002 juvenile arrests for the most serious offenses decreased by 44.8 percent and overall juvenile arrests decreased by 24.7 percent. However, during the same 10-year period average daily population in detention increased by 37.7 percent. These changes led to serious overcrowding in county-operated detention facilities. In 1996, for example, New Jersey’s detention facilities were operating at 166 percent of approved capacity.
Juvenile detention is the temporary placement of a youth accused of a delinquent act, while awaiting the final outcome of the individual’s case in court. The purpose of detention is to house juveniles who, by virtue of their alleged offenses or documented prior histories, pose a serious public safety or flight risk.
The goal of JDAI as a systems-change initiative is to create more effective and efficient processes surrounding the use of detention. A primary goal of JDAI is to make sure that secure detention is used for serious and chronic juvenile offenders, and that effective alternatives are available for other non-violent youth who can be safely supervised in the community while awaiting final court disposition.
JDAI also works to redirect resources to improve conditions of confinement in detention facilities for those juveniles who require detention.
To view the entire report, visit: http://www.nj.gov/oag/jjc/localized_programs_jdai.html.