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Massachusetts Receives Nearly $1 Million to Deter Low-Risk Youth from Secure Detention

For Immediate Release - July 15, 2016

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS), through the national Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI), has been selected to receive a grant totaling $894,960 from the Boston-based Lookout Foundation Inc.

The three-year grant will expand the work of Massachusetts JDAI, a multiagency partnership that serves to keep low-risk youth out of secure detention facilities and strengthens national reform strategies in the use of the justice system for youth.

“We seek out programs that provide transformative services and treatments to youth and young adults who have experienced trauma. To leverage our impact, we take a systems approach and seek out catalysts that target root-causes and shift paradigms. JDAI is a strong fit with these criteria, and we are looking forward to supporting the initiative’s work of providing innovative interventions for court- involved youth,” said President of the Lookout Foundation, Dinah Buechner-Vischer.

DYS began participating as a key agency partner of JDAI in 2006. Since the inception of JDAI, Massachusetts has seen a 56 percent drop in detention admissions. However, more than 60 percent of all youth in detention could potentially be served in less restrictive placements than secure detention.

“We are thankful to the Lookout Foundation for providing the support to help Massachusetts expand the scope and impact of JDAI,” said Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services, Peter Forbes. “The timing is great for us to take the next logical steps to leverage the best possible outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.”

The overarching goal for JDAI Massachusetts is to decrease the reliance on secure detention for children, where youth await court hearings and further placement decisions, while reforming the juvenile justice system through data-driven partnerships between the court, juvenile justice agencies, and community stakeholders.

”As the Commonwealth's alternative to detention and incarceration, the Massachusetts Probation Service continues its commitment to the JDAI concept of ensuring the right child, in the right placement, for the right reasons, and looks forward to the enhanced level of effort and coordination that this grant opportunity represents," said Probation Commissioner Edward J. Dolan.

"The Juvenile Court is committed to ensuring that our youth receive every opportunity to achieve the best possible outcomes,” explained Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court Judge Amy L. Nechtem.  “We are pleased to continue our support in furtherance of expanded JDAI initiatives statewide. The Juvenile Court is proud and appreciative of the collaborative efforts of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare community of stakeholders, including the Department of Youth Services and the MA Probation Service."

The Lookout Foundation grant will provide a statewide enhancement and replication of the national JDAI model by expanding the county-level JDAI work across Massachusetts; and increasing staffing levels with two JDAI local coordinators, a part-time JDAI data analyst, and a MA Probation Service JDAI coordinator who will work with chiefs of probation to implement reforms.

“Research has repeatedly shown the secure detention can be harmful for low-risk youth, increasing the chances that they will not finish high school, and that they will end up in the adult justice system,” said Massachusetts JDAI State Coordinator, Lynsey Heffernan. “Over 75 percent of all youth who enter the US juvenile justice system have already been exposed to trauma and even when all efforts are made to treat children well, locked facilities are not the environment in which children thrive.”

Funding will be distributed on an annual basis until the end of the grant period on May 31, 2019. The grant period for the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative began with the first year grant payment of $298,320 on June 1, 2016 and job opportunities were made public on July 12, 2016.

About JDAI Massachusetts:

Supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) is a national, multi-agency effort focused on reducing the unnecessary and harmful use of secure detention for low-risk juveniles. In Massachusetts, JDAI ensures that “the right youth, is in the right place, for the right reasons” through strategies that engage public, private, community and family partners.

About DYS Massachusetts:

The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) is a multi-faceted agency that serves youth committed as juvenile delinquents or youthful offenders. The Department employs a "continuum" model of services and supervision. All DYS programs address the educational, psychological and health needs of each youth in its custody.