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Annie E. Casey Foundation, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative: Technical Assistance for Information Infrastructure

The Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), begun in 1992, is one of the nation’s most effective, influential, and widespread juvenile-justice reform initiatives in the United States. Approximately 200 jurisdictions representing 39 states including the District of Columbia have embraced the principles and practices of JDAI in order to transform their systems and thereby reduce reliance on detention for young people, improve public safety, reduce overrepresentation of youth of color, and save taxpayer dollars. A particular focus of JDAI is reducing detentions for youth who pose no threat to themselves or the community but are too often held in juvenile-detention facilities for minor offenses until their court hearings.

Since the initiative’s inception, Metis Associates has provided technical assistance focused on helping grantees to increase their capacities for data management, information management, and the use of data to assess progress. To improve decision-making at each point in the juvenile-justice system, from arrest to adjudication to commitments, Metis developed two tools used by JDAI grantees: the Quarterly Reporting Spreadsheet Tool and an auxiliary Data Entry Tool (for use when courts and detention computer systems do not maintain needed data for JDAI work) to produce quarterly reports on performance measures by race, ethnicity, gender, and reason for detention.

Metis is working remotely with 60 state and local juvenile-justice grantees in 14 states, which have joined the initiative in the last four years, to aggregate case-level data from different state or local court and detention facility systems. This help is intended to enable them to jump-start and produce meaningful reports, improve internal data quality, and make changes in their policies and practice. Metis provides continuous assistance, online user guides, tutorial videos, webinars, and monthly coaching calls with JDAI team leaders and grantees. Using these tools, every grantee shares a common set of milestones and data definitions, enabling them to analyze data and implement problem-solving solutions to reduce inappropriate detention.