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Reduce Juvenile Detention

Strategies Success Stories

Frontline practice reform has produced important lessons and research findings about strategies that reduce the unnecessary or inappropriate use of detention and improve the juvenile detention system.  In turn, this evidence has informed the development of policies that support effective practice.

What Can Policymakers Do?

  • Ensure responsible juvenile sentencing.When children and youth commit a crime it is important that they are held accountable for their actions. However, it is equally important that the manner for which they are held accountable reflects their special capacity for rehabilitation.
  • Reduce racial disparities. While minority youth constitute approximately one-third of the youth population, they represent two-thirds of the detention/correctional population. One reason is the disparate treatment of minorities at various decision points in the juvenile justice system.
  • Develop alternatives to detention. Youth who do not require secure care can be supervised in less costly community-based programs and avoid being detained with violent offenders in settings that may lead them to delinquency.
  • Mandate safe confinement and appropriate service provision. Conditions of confinement in youth detention facilities can significantly impact youth physically and emotionally and affect the extent to which detention can prevent future delinquent behavior and promote well-being.
  • Support comprehensive aftercare services. Ensuring coordinated pre- and post-release supports and continued access to services can help youth transition back to the community and support their long-term success and well-being.


The  Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) has set the standard for detention reduction nationally. JDAI sites have saved millions of dollars, produced important research on strategies that reduce unnecessary or inappropriate use of detention and improved the juvenile detention system.


Through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Cook County, Ill., avoided construction of a $24 million detention facility, redirecting those resources.