Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative

What is JDAI?

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) was designed to support the Annie E Casey Foundation’s vision that all youth involved in the juvenile justice system have opportunities to develop into healthy, productive adults. The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is a detention reform and juvenile justice system improvement initiative that has demonstrated over 20 years that jurisdictions can safely reduce reliance on secure detention.

JDAI promotes changes to policies, practices and programs to:
  • decrease the number of youth unnecessarily detained;
  • reduce racial disparities and bias;
  • discourage failures to appear in court: and,
  • improve the juvenile justice system overall.
JDAI is a process, not a conventional program, which means JDAI helps restructure policy and practice to create system improvements that reach far beyond detention alone. JDAI sites have demonstrated safe reductions in the number of youth detained through a set of interrelated strategies which include:
  • collaboration among juvenile justice agencies, community organizations and other government agencies;
  • the use of data in making policy and case-level decisions;
  • objective instruments to guide detention decisions;
  • operation of a continuum of non-secure detention alternatives;
  • case processing efficiencies to reduce time between arrest and case disposition; improvement of conditions of confinement;
  • safe reductions of special populations (e.g. violations of probation, warrants and cases awaiting placement);
  • racial/ethnic fairness in policy and case-level decision-making; and,
  • improving conditions of confinement.
By systematically addressing each of these areas, JDAI has proven that juvenile detention rates can be dramatically reduced without a corresponding increase in juvenile crime.

Memphis is one of the largest urban Courts in the U.S. and the first in Tennessee selected by Annie E Casey Foundation. Since earning a coveted partnership with Annie E Casey Foundation in June 2011, Shelby County has drastically reduced the number of youth admitted to detention.