Juvenile Justice

Goal: To ensure all youth forge a productive path to adulthood.

Juvenile justice has been one of ACNJ’s key issues since its founding in 1978. Through various avenues, ACNJ has advocated for safe alternatives to incarceration for troubled youth and improved conditions for youth who must be confined. We work to expand understanding of policies and practices that can put these youth on a path to productive adulthood — a result that is good for both youth and the state.

ACNJ is a steering committee member of the Youth Justice New Jersey Coalition, which is working to reduce the number of incarcerated youth; promote rehabilitative community-based alternatives to incarceration; ensure incarcerated youth are free from abusive practices and that they receive quality services and education; end school policies and practices that push youth out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system; and eliminate disparate treatment of youth of color in the juvenile justice system. To learn more about the coalition, contact Mary Coogan at mcoogan@acnj.org.

ACNJ is working with members of the New Jersey Council for Juvenile Justice System Improvement’s Education Subcommittee and the Youth Justice New Jersey Coalition to address discipline and behavioral issues in schools.

New Jersey is a national leader in a rapidly advancing juvenile justice reform movement. The state is locking up thousands fewer young offenders, while safely addressing their needs in their communities. Leaders from other states have been visiting New Jersey to learn these methods.  Read ACNJ’s Special Kids Count Report: Juvenile Justice for details. This success was achieved through county-based teams working in the statewide Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).

What Does Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Look Like in New Jersey?
The Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) is the lead agency for JDAI in New Jersey, providing the management and staffing infrastructure and partners with the New Jersey Judiciary in this effort. All 21 counties are now part of JDAI, the last two (Morris and Hunterdon) joining this year.

JDAI provides a framework for conducting a thorough, data-driven examination of the detention system, and for using that objective information to develop strategies for system improvement. The entities involved in juvenile justice cases come together to look at the data and ask why and how we can do it better. They have built these relationships over years of working in partnership, which allows for more frank dialogue about real issues and concerns that need to be addressed to continue to improve the overall system and outcomes for our youth.

County-based JDAI committees meet regularly and work to reduce the number of youth unnecessarily or inappropriately held in secure detention, while maintaining public safety and ensuring youth appear for scheduled court dates. JDAI sites have achieved remarkable results in terms of reducing reliance on detention for youth charged with violations and low-level offenses. Through JDAI, New Jersey has demonstrated that reliance on secure detention can be reduced safely while improving outcomes for youth. ACNJ produced a Special Juvenile Kids Count Report (2012) that organizes some of this data, making it more accessible. Complete reports of current data can be found on the JJC’s website.