What is JDAI?

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is a national systems-reform initiative working to improve the detention component of the juvenile justice system.

Dangers of Detention in Juvenile Justice

The increased and unnecessary use of secure detention exposes troubled young people to an environment that more closely resembles adult prisons and jails than the kinds of community and family-based interventions proven to be most effective.

JDAI in Massachusetts 

In October of 2006, the Department of Youth Services of Massachusetts was chosen to participate in an initiative supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, known as the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI).

The overarching goal of JDAI is to reduce the Commonwealth’s reliance on secure pre-trial detention while at the same time strengthening the juvenile justice system and seeking systemic reform in areas as needed.  Following the principals of JDAI, and applying the eight core strategies of the initiative, Massachusetts has seen a reduction in the admissions to detention by 54% between 2007 and 2012 and a 68% reduction in beds in secure detention centers during that same time period.

JDAI Data in Massachusetts

Partners involved in Massachusetts JDAI value using data to guide decision making. Use of accurate data, both to diagnose the system’s problems and proclivities and to assess the impact of various reforms, is critical. Without hard facts, myths and anecdotes will rule the system and preclude agreement on key aspects of policy and practice.

Current Initiatives in Massachusetts

There are several state-wide and regional initiatives. More information on these ongoing initiatives will be posted on this web page soon.

Structure in Massachusetts 

Massachusetts is a state-wide JDAI reform jurisdiction.  All of the work of JDAI is done under the Governance Committee which provides support and oversight to all JDAI subcommittees.  Massachusetts does not have a strong county-government, as many executive branch agencies are state-wide themselves.  In addition, the juvenile court, and the probation department are fully integrated across the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, six counties have active local JDAI steering committees meeting mostly on a monthly basis.  These counties tend to have the largest population of juveniles and therefore have the largest dockets of delinquency filing. In addition, to support the work across the state, the Governance Committee has established numerous Statewide subcommittees to look at issues common across the initiative. 

JDAI Nationally 

Each year, more than 2 million arrests are made of youth, resulting in approximately 300,000 to 600,000 admissions to secure detention. Of these children detained, two thirds are racial or ethnic minorities, arrested at rates that are out of proportion to the rate of their unlawful behavior. Roughly one quarter of children detained are diagnosed as acutely mentally ill. Eighty percent of girls detained report physical abuse and 50 percent report sexual abuse. JDAI's vision is to help manage these children differently and appropriately.

This information is provided by the Department of Youth Services.