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Cutting Child Crime In New Jersey [AUDIO]

A new report by Advocates for Children of New Jersey details the successful reforms in juvenile justice since the implementation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in the Garden State.

Cel Zalkind, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Cel Zalkind, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ)

The report documents the dramatic reduction in New Jersey’s use of secure detention over the past eight years, saving millions in taxpayer dollars, while maintaining public safety and putting more youth on a path to productive adulthood.

Ceil Zalkind, the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, says, “For a long time detention was the only alternative to deal with kids who committed minor crimes – and the goal has been to provide appropriate alternatives for those who commit less serious offenses, while continuing to protect public safety.”

She says the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative – currently being used by 16 Counties in Jersey, “presents an approach to treating young offenders that is smarter, safer and actually saves tax dollars…There are 446 fewer juveniles in detention. In 2011 alone, New Jersey locked up six thousand fewer youth over the course of the year…This represents a 60 percent decrease in detention from 9 years ago. It’s achieved by taking a different approach to minor or less serious offenses.”

Zalkind adds, “Instead of detaining youth, JDAI uses home detention, electronic monitoring, afternoon and evening reporting centers, probation reporting. So kids get job training, education assistance, mentoring, counseling, anger management – it puts youth on the path to a productive adulthood.”

She points out the program has resulted in less crowded detention centers.

“So these facilities can be used as evening reporting centers, shelters and mental health facilities…It’s also important to note public safety has not been compromised, public safety has in fact, improved – juvenile arrests have dropped by 33 percent, and arrests for serious offenses have decreased 22 percent.”

Zalkind says, “It costs a 136,000 dollars a year to detain one youth. We’ve seen county detention facilities closed- with an estimated 16 million dollars in savings each year.”

The full report can be found online.

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