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Department of Youth Services Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative



The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) kicked-off in Ohio in August 2010. DYS and five of Ohio’s largest counties are partnering with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to implement the JDAI in Ohio. This partnership is consistent with the Department’s reform efforts and commitment to a community-based service delivery system. JDAI efforts in Ohio will enhance reform strategies already underway. 

Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lucas, Montgomery and Summit counties are participating in the rollout of JDAI in Ohio. This initiative will help jurisdictions make prudent use of secure detention, promote efficient use of resources and support public safety. Efforts will enhance options for youth taken into custody, and expected outcomes include reducing racial disparities, improving school completion rates and lowering re-offense rates.

JDAI, established by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is designed to address the efficiency and effectiveness of juvenile detention. Operating for more than 20 years and now functioning in more than 200 jurisdictions across the country, JDAI improves the juvenile justice system using research, data and evidence-informed practices. For more information, visit the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s website page on the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative at

To watch a video about JDAI from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, please click here.



The juvenile justice system involves the interaction of multiple systems, improvements require that all of those systems work together: to guide the reform process; to analyze problems and recommend solutions; to design changes to policies, practices and programs; and to monitor impact. This requires a commitment to joint planning, shared responsibility, and mutual accountability. 

For these reasons, all JDAI sites begin their work by creating a collaborative steering committee and governance structure that includes system and community representatives who have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their agencies or groups. To ensure continued momentum and accountability, the collaborative should be chaired or co-chaired by influential leaders committed to quality pretrial justice for juveniles. JDAI collaboratives should be formally empowered to address detention reform, including racial and ethnic disparities. This may happen through a formal county resolution establishing the collaborative or through a memorandum of understanding signed by the collaborative’s key members. ​​For additional information, please see JDAI Pathway 02 Collaboration and Leadership in Juvenile Detention Reform.

Data Driven Decisions

JDAI depends upon objective data analysis to inform the development and oversight of policy, practice and programs. Data on detention population, utilization and operations is collected to provide a portrait of who is being detained and why, and to monitor the impacts of policies and practices. As a results-based initiative, JDAI establishes and tracks performance measures. All data is disaggregated by race/ethnicity and gender to monitor disparities in the system.  ​​For additional information, see JDAI Pathway 07 By the Numbers The Role of Data and Information in Detention Reform.

Objective Admissions

Detention admissions policies and practices must distinguish between the youth who are likely to flee or commit new crimes and those who are not. JDAI sites develop detention Risk Assessment Instruments to objectively screen youth to determine which youth can be safely supervised in the community. Absent an objective approach, high-risk offenders may be released and low-risk offenders detained. ​​For additional information, see JDAI Pathway 03 Controlling the Front Gates Effective Admissions Policies and Practices.

Alternatives to Detention

New or enhanced non-secure alternatives to detention programs increase the options available for arrested youth by providing supervision, structure and accountability. Detention alternative programs target only those youth who would otherwise be detained, and typically include: electronic monitoring, house arrest, community monitoring, day or evening reporting centers, and shelter beds for youth who cannot return home. The most effective juvenile justice systems have a program continuum that both responds to the legal status of youth and ensures that they can also be safely supervised in the community. Pre-adjudicated youth, programming should be linked to their level of risk of Failure-to-Appear or re-arrest; post-adjudication programming should be linked to the dispositional purposes the court seeks to accomplish (i.e., sanctions or rehabilitative goals). Programs should also be able to respond to compliance failures by increasing contact and case management activities instead of automatically terminating participation for noncompliance. Whether pre-adjudication or post-adjudication, ATDs should be grounded in an understanding of adolescent development and behavior, and program activities should reflect youths’ needs, cultures and traditions. ​​For additional information, see JDAI Pathway 04 Consider the Alternatives Planning and Implementing Detention Alternatives.                

Case Processing Reforms

Modifications of juvenile court procedures accelerate the movement of delinquency cases, streamline case processing and reduce unnecessary delay. Case processing reforms are introduced to expedite the flow of cases through the system. These changes reduce length of stay in custody, expand the availability of non-secure program slots and ensure that interventions with youth are timely and appropriate. ​​For additional information, see JDAI Pathway 05 Reducing Unnecessary Delay innovations in Case Processing.

Special Detention Cases

"Special detention cases" are those cases that commonly represent large percentages of inappropriate or unnecessary stays in detention. Data analysis typically directs jurisdictions to focus on those youth detained on warrants, for probation violations, or pending dispositional placement. Addressing these cases can have immediate and significant impact on safely reducing detention populations. ​​For additional information, see JDAI Pathway 09 Special Detention Cases Strategies for Handling Difficult Populations.

Reducing Racial Disparity

Reducing racial disparities requires specific strategies aimed at eliminating bias and ensuring a level playing field for youth of color. Racial/ethnic disparities are the most stubborn aspect of detention reform. Real lasting change in this arena requires committed leadership, on-going policy analysis and targeted policies and programming. ​​For additional information, see JDAI Pathway 08 Reducing Racial Disparities in Juvenile Detention.

Conditions of Confinement

Since its inception, JDAI has emphasized the importance of maintaining safe and humane conditions of confinement in juvenile detention facilities. The JDAI juvenile detention facility standards, originally published in 2004 and revised in 2014, represent the most comprehensive and demanding set of publicly available standards for juvenile detention facilities. Officials in JDAI sites have used these standards and JDAI facility assessment process to improve policies and practices and ensure that their facilities reflect evolving standards of practice in the field. ​​For additional information, see JDAI Pathway 06 Improving Conditions of Confinement in Secure Juvenile Detention Centers.

Learn More about the 8 Core Strategies

To learn more about the 8 core strategies, please click here to watch a video from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.



For more information, contact Ryan Gies, Deputy Director Parole Courts and Community by email or phone (614) 728-3153 or Regina Lurry, JDAI Administrator by email or phone (614) 387-2556.