JDAI Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

What is JDAI?

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) was designed to support the Casey Foundation’s vision that all youth involved in the juvenile justice system have opportunities to develop into healthy, productive adults. JDAI is now the largest juvenile justice system improvement initiative in the United States. operating in 200 jurisdictions in 40 states.

JDAI focuses on the juvenile detention component of the juvenile justice system because youth are often unnecessarily or inappropriately detained at great expense, with long-lasting negative consequences for public safety and youth development.

JDAI in Washington

The Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice, in partnership with nine county juvenile courts has adopted JDAI as a detention reform and system improvement initiative and has invested federal funding in the initiative since 2004. The Council supports continued expansion of this successful initiative and has selected alternatives to detention, specifically the JDAI, as one of the top juvenile justice priorities for the state.

The Washington State Legislature has invested funds in this program since 2008 to assist with funding JDAI in Washington and to provide for its expansion.

The JDAI is a proven and cost-effective way for local jurisdictions and states to improve their juvenile justice systems and achieve the desired outcomes of:

  • Increased public safety.
  • Reduced detention overcrowding and the need to build and operate expensive detention facilities.
  • Better outcomes for youth and families by safely keeping youth in their homes, schools and community.
  • Reduction of racial disparities in the juvenile justice system.
  • Redirecting scarce public funding to less expensive and proven community-based programs.

Washington juvenile courts using JDAI strategies have significantly reduced their use of secure detention while also achieving historically high reductions in juvenile crime.

JDAI core strategies

  • Establish local leadership committees to collaboratively improve juvenile justice
  • Become "data-driven" by analyzing data to guide policies and practices
  • Utilize a detention risk assessment to safely make detention admission or release decisions
  • Develop a continuum of community-based programs for alternatives to secure detention
  • Expedite case processing times consistent with due process
  • Pilot new practices to reduce need for warrants and increase compliance with court orders
  • Reduce racial disparities in the juvenile justice system
  • Adopt JDAI detention facility standards and inspections to increase safety and reduce liability

 JDAI sites in Washington

  • Adams County Juvenile Court
  • Benton-Franklin Counties Juvenile Court
  • Clark County Juvenile Court
  • King County Superior Court
  • Mason County Juvenile Court
  • Pierce County Juvenile Court
  • Snohomish County Superior-Juvenile Court
  • Spokane County Juvenile Court
  • Whatcom County Juvenile Court


Each of the juvenile courts replicating JDAI in Washington State has safely reduced their detention populations by implementing an array of alternatives to detention programs, expediting case-processing and developing a risk assessment tool to determine which youth require incarceration.

JDAI has reduced reliance on detention, freed resources for the development of more effective alternatives, and improved the overall efficiency of local juvenile justice systems. Instead of being drawn deeper into the system, many youth in JDAI sites have been provided with new opportunities to stay connected with their schools and families, solve the problems that brought them to court, and prepare for success in life.