New Jersey is considered a “model state” in its use of a program known as JDAI (Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative), a program initially funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation under the premise that all youths in the juvenile justice system should be given the opportunity to develop into healthy, productive adults. Since the program was instituted in 2004, New Jersey’s juvenile justice centers that have adopted it have 60 percent fewer incarcerations.
To date, 17 New Jersey counties are implementing the program, including Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Union, and Warren.
The program focuses on implementing effective, objection detention admissions policies and practices; enhancing available alternatives to detention; relying on data to inform policy; reducing delays in processing; identifying strategies to reduce racial disparities in the detention system; and focusing on challenges presented by special populations.
Before the program was implemented, New Jersey’s juvenile system was bursting at the seams, with one facility operating at 223 percent of capacity. What’s more, the program has been successful without a threat to public safety. According to the Attorney General’s office, 96 percent of youths completed their alternative disposition without a new delinquency charge.