Demonstrating that jurisdictions can respond to delinquent behavior in ways that are more effective, fairer, safer, and less costly.

Each year in the United States, thousands of children are placed inappropriately and unnecessarily into youth corrections facilities and various forms of congregate residential placements. As documented in great detail in No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration, in the aggregate these out-of-home placements have a deeply troubling track record: high rates of recidivism; exorbitant costs; frequent harm to the health and safety of the youth (and staff) who are confined in them; and poor outcomes in terms of youth development. In spite of more than a decade-long decline in serious juvenile crime across the country, reliance on youth corrections and other out-of-home placements has not mirrored this drop in arrests.

However, in recent years national trends in juvenile confinement have shifted, as many jurisdictions have significantly reduced their reliance on out-of-home placements, without compromising public safety. In addition to policy changes at the state level, quite a few jurisdictions that participate in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) have reduced commitments and placements largely by “narrowing the pipeline” of youth in the system and by embracing greater reliance on community-based and family-focused interventions. These trends suggest intriguing and potentially dramatic possibilities: What would happen if the collaborative, data-driven habits of JDAI sites (both local and state) were expanded to focus on the dispositional end of the system, on safely reducing youth incarceration and other forms of out-of-home placement?

The Casey Foundation envisions an expanded focus to the “deep end” of the system that seeks to:

•             Create replicable models at the state and local levels for safely reducing out-of-home placements;

•             Serve as a laboratory for innovative policies, practices, and programs that both draw upon and contribute to the national evidence    base for juvenile justice;

•             Create an infrastructure of tools, training resources, expert and peer technical assistance, and other implementation aids to facilitate such work in multiple sites; and

•             Challenge the field of juvenile justice to be accountable for the well-being of youth who come into contact with the system.

This paper offers the rationale for a focus on reducing post-dispositional out-of-home placements, followed by a summary of the multiple facets of JDAI’s expanded deep end focus.

(From The Annie E. Casey Foundation)

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