Police partners are incredibly important to the success of the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative. Research on life-outcomes for youth, once they are simply arrested, provide an important incentive to look at this first criminal justice intercept for youth.
Thankfully, many Massachusetts Police Departments are already looking at diverting youth from the juvenile justice system entirely. Several Police Departments currently implement proactive prevention strategies to reduce the likelihood of any future police contact.
Descriptions of two such programs, in Cambridge and in Westborough, can be found below:
- Presentation on Cambridge SafetyNet
- Cambridge SafetyNet Website
- Westborough Youth and Family Services Website
JDAI also has a strong partner in the Department of Mental Health.
Specifically, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health has spear-headed an effort to look at how the mental health systems and juvenile justice systems intersect.
The Department of Mental Health, in collaboration with several other state agencies and stakeholders invested in improving practices for juveniles with behavioral health conditions, was selected to participate in a Substance Abuse Services and Mental Health Administration/MacArthur Foundation Policy Academy and Action Network program.
The application entitled, "Improving Diversion Policies for Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders," through the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates incorporates the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Youth Services, Public Health-Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Children and Families, the Office of the Child Advocate, the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention, the Parent Information Network, MassHealth Office of Behavioral Health, Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative along with the Administrative Office of the Juvenile Court, the Office of the Commissioner of Probation, the Committee for Public Counsel Services as well as the pilot site District Attorney and law enforcement in a collaborative approach to diversionary practices.
This is an incredible opportunity for the Commonwealth to take a close look together at the juvenile justice and behavioral health systems together and consider how best to develop diversion strategies at the probation stage of justice proceedings for youth with behavioral health challenges.
DMH also coordinates a Jail Diversion Program designed to divert mentally ill people from encountering the justice system at the point of arrest.
The DMH Jail Diversion Program funds police departments, and technical assistance, for police training and coordinated responses to working with those with mental health struggles in the community.
- Department of Mental Health Jail Diversion Program Report
- Department of Mental Health Jail Diversion Program Fact Sheet
- Adolescent Brain Presentation by JDAI Massachusetts at the DMH Mental Health and Law Enforcement Conference
- Boston NPR: Empathy Lessons: DMH Training Police To Understand People With Mental Illness
Taunton Police and Community Initiative
Some departments have taken the jail diversion model one step further with an intentional focus on working with mentally ill youth. The City of Taunton is one great example. Taunton Police and Probation partner with Community Counseling of Bristol County, local schools and providers to host the Youth Community Crisis Intervention Teams.
This includes Taunton police and partner joint training, and a coordinate community response to working with youth struggling with trauma and mental health issues. We are proud the communities such as Taunton have taken such a proactive approach to working with these young people.
- Taunton Community Crisis Intervention Team Website
- Taunton CCIT Mission Statement
- Taunton Youth CCIT Case Conference Protocol
Developing Risk-Assessment Tools for Police
Supporting the JDAI Core Strategy of using objective screening at the various decision points in the juvenile justice system, the Town of Brookline has partnered with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, National Youth Screening and Assessment Project.
The goal has been to develop a risk screening tool to be used by police departments in Massachusetts to make objective decisions about which youth to arrest, summons, and divert from the justice system. The tool is in the process of being validated and tested, but should be ready for use by law enforcement in late 2014.
For information about the risk-assessment tools, please see below:
- Police Risk Assessment Instrument – Town of Brookline Presentation
- The National Youth Screening and Assessment Project Website
- Highlights from the 6th Annual JDAI Statewide Conference (coming soon)
- JDAI Wins Massachusetts Governors Award
The Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) in Massachusetts works to ensure that “the right youth, is in the right place, for the right reason.”
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative.