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The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Takes Off in Nebraska


With so many Nebraskans working hard to ensure our children and youth can be successful, we occasionally invite other advocates doing great work to add their perspective as a guest blogger.  If you have a story to add that will help tell the whole story of Nebraska’s kids, contact Jill Westfall at jwestfall @ voicesforchildren.com.  

The post below is a guest blog by State Wide JDAI Coordinator, Monica Miles-Steffens, which digs into the details of the work Nebraska is doing to find alternatives to juvenile detention. 


In 2010, Nebraska was selected to be a new site in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).  JDAI, a data driven, evidence based model, is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that is currently operating in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

The Foundation’s vision is to change the odds for court involved youth, aiming to increase their chances of growing out of delinquent behavior and leading healthy, productive lives.  In return, the hope is by changing these odds fewer youth will graduate to criminal behavior as adults, travel deeper into substance abusing patterns, and rely less on public assistance.

Through this successful initiative, we all benefit through improved public safety, strong labor force, intact and self-supporting families and less government spending on corrections, public health, etc.

The five overarching objectives of JDAI are:

  1. Eliminate inappropriate or unnecessary use of secure detention;
  2. Minimize failures to appear and incidence of delinquent behavior;
  3. Redirect public finances to successful reform strategies;
  4.  Improve conditions in secure detention facilitates; and
  5. Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparity.

In addition, JDAI uses eight core strategies to assist jurisdictions to improve decision-making, strengthen practice, and ensure that public funds are used for programs and services that are targeted to local needs.  These eight core strategies are:

  1. Collaboration;
  2. Data;
  3. Objective Admissions;
  4. Alternatives to Detention;
  5. Case Processing;
  6. Reducing Racial/Ethnic Disparities;
  7. Special Populations (VOP’s, Court Orders, Pending Placements, etc.); and
  8.  Improving Conditions.

These core strategies drive the work at the local and state level through committed stakeholders in formal collaboratives.

Nebraska has two local sites currently engaged in full JDAI implementation- Douglas County and Sarpy County.  Douglas County was the first Nebraska site in 2010 and has seen significant reduction in detention population.  Current work is focused on case processing and developing alternatives.  Sarpy County is in the process of forming their collaborative and conducting their Detention Utilization Study.

Nebraska committed to expanding as a statewide initiative in the spring of 2012, and the initiative is housed in the Nebraska Office of Probation Administration.  First statewide efforts have been focused on revising and piloting the probation detention screen instrument, followed by forming of the statewide collaborative.

More information on JDAI can be found on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Website or by contacting Monica Miles-Steffens (monica@milesaheadconsult.com) and Corey Steel (corey.steel@nebraska.gov).  

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