Juvenile Justice

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

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).

Avoiding the “school to prison pipeline”

In an effort to replicate a JDAI data-driven approach to address discipline and behavioral issues in school, ACNJ partnered with the New Jersey Council for Juvenile Justice System Improvement (CJJSI), the Governor’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, NJ Department of Education, the Juvenile Justice Commission and the NJ Alliance for Family Support Organizations in hosting a forum Avoiding the School to Prison Pipeline: Systems working together to enhance educational opportunities for at-risk students in October 2015. To find forum presentations and resources, click here.

New law makes smart reforms to juvenile justice

On August 10, 2015, Governor Christie signed into law significant and much-needed reforms to New Jersey’s juvenile justice system.  Although youth should be held accountable for their actions, the goal of the juvenile justice system is to return these youth to their communities equipped with the skills they need to stay out of trouble and mature into productive adults. These legislative reforms are a solid step in achieving this outcome. Learn more.

View presentation on adolescent brain development and rethinking juvenile justice.


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. Executive Director Cecilia Zalkind currently serves on a statewide panel devoted to identifying and advancing solutions to systemic problems in the juvenile justice system.