Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative


The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) has been working for over 25 years and is a collaborative effort with public, private and community partners for juvenile justice system improvement.  The initiative focuses on the reallocation of public resources from mass incarceration toward investment in youth, families, and communities.  This reinvestment provides an opportunity for lasting improvement to public safety.

There are more than 300 JDAI sites across the United States and Washington D.C., including 32 Indiana counties. Marion County joined the JDAI in 2006, becoming the first JDAI site in Indiana. In 2009 and 2010, Johnson, Lake, Porter, and Tippecanoe joined the initiative. In 2011 and 2012, Clark, Elkhart, and Howard counties joined, followed by Allen, Bartholomew, Boone, Delaware, Henry, LaGrange, LaPorte, Madison, Monroe, St. Joseph, and Wayne counties in 2014. In 2016,  Cass, Grant, Hamilton, Hendricks, Owen, Pulaski, Ripley, Scott, Starke, Steuben, Wabash and Whitley counties all joined. Kosciusko county is the most resent addition to Indiana's JDAI effort bringing the total to 32 counties.  Approximately 69% of Indiana’s youth ages 10 – 17 reside in a JDAI county.

At the end of 2016, Indiana JDAI Counties overall experienced a 53% reduction in admissions to secure detention, a 41% reduction in the average daily population in secure detention, a 47% decline in felony petitions filed, and Indiana Department of Correction commitments were down from 634 during the counties’ baseline years to 367—a 42% reduction.

Indiana is one of the first states in the United States to implement JDAI on a statewide level and continues to be a leader in advancing the cause of an equitable and effective juvenile justice system.

St. Joseph County JDAI Accomplishments

Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI)

The detention risk assessment instrument is a tool that was designed by stakeholders from the community, probation, prosecutors office, public defenders office, and law enforcement. When an law enforcement officer encounters a juvenile that is alleged to have committed a delinquent offense that officer contacts the juvenile probation department and a probation officer uses the DRAI to assess if the juvenile should be placed into detention, released on an alternative with special conditions, or should be released directly to their parents while awaiting court. The DRAI assesses the following areas to make this determination: the alleged instant offense, the juvenile's prior offense history or current status with the juvenile justice system, any aggravating factors, and any mitigating factors. Probation Officers may also override or underride the tool with a probation supervisor's or judicial officer's approval. If the DRAI indicates that the juvenile should be placed into secure detention, then the juvenile is admitted to the Juvenile Detention Center. If the DRAI indicates that the juvenile should be released on an alternative with special conditions, then that juvenile's is released to their parent or guardian; however, the juvenile and parent/guardian has to agree to special release conditions for the juvenile, like trust house arrest, no contact with victims, etc, until the juvenile has an initial hearing. Violations of any release conditions or refusal to agree to these conditions will result in the juvenile being placed in secure detention. Juvenile's released on these special conditions will normally have court within 48 hours, excluding holidays and weekends. Finally, if the DRAI indicates that the juvenile should be just be released the juvenile will be released to their parent or guardian; however, they will sign a promise to appear form that states they will appear before the court when summoned for this alleged offense. The juvenile and parent/guardian will then receive notice via U.S. Mail with the next steps.

Order/Promise to Appear Form

The Order/Promise to Appear Form is a tool that allows for an intermediate step between admitting a juvenile into secure detention while awaiting court on a new offense or just releasing that juvenile outright to their parent or guardian. Juveniles who meet the criteria are given an Order to Appear Form that releases them to their parents, but with special release conditions in place prior to a court hearing. Prior this form juveniles could only be detained or released which caused many juveniles that were alleged to have committed non-serious misdemeanor offenses to be admitted to secure detention. Juveniles given an Order to Appear are assigned a Cause Number and given a court date within 48 hours, excluding holidays and weekends. Failure to appear for this hearing will result in warrants being issued for the juvenile and parent/guardian. Juveniles and parents must also agree to special release conditions including trust house arrest, where the juvenile is not allowed to leave the house unless under the direct supervision of a parent/guardian. Violation of those release conditions or committing another alleged offense prior to the court hearing may result in the immediate detention of that juvenile. 

Juvenile Rapid Evaluation Center (JREC)

The JREC is a center where law enforcement can bring a juvenile alleged to have committed a delinquent act to be evaluated by the DRAI. Prior to the JREC, law enforcement officers contacted the juvenile probation department via telephone to have a juvenile assessed with the DRAI over the phone. If the juvenile was not detained, officers would have to release the juvenile back into an active crime scene or possible drive the juvenile around to multiple locations trying to locate a parent or guardian to take custody of the juvenile. With the JREC, law enforcement officers call and inform JREC staff that they are en route with a juvenile to be assessed. JREC staff then assesses the juvenile with the DRAI and depending on the outcome the juvenile is either processed into secure detention or left with JREC staff to wait for their parent/guardian to come take custody of the juvenile. By providing a place for law enforcement to leave juvenile's not being detained police are able to get back on patrol faster, the juvenile is not released back into active crime scene reducing the possibly for further incidents between the parties involved, and it juveniles have a safe and secure location to wait for their parent/guardian. By having the juvenile and law enforcement present, the JREC also gives the staff assessing the juvenile more information by allowing them to visibility assess the situation, to build a report with the juvenile for more accurate information, and then more accurate information from parents/guardians when they arrive.