Annie E. Casey Foundation:
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

Commonweal is an active and long-term participant in the Annie Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). The JDAI is a national initiative dedicated to reducing the unnecessary incarceration of children in secure justice-system facilities. Under a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, the JDAI is now active in 37 states.

Under the JDAI, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has pioneered a comprehensive and proven approach to the processing of children upon arrest and referral to the justice system. The JDAI helps states and sites implement a range of best-practices designed to guard the rights and safety of youth, to improve justice system efficiency and to promote public safety.

The goals served by the JDAI include:

  • Reducing unnecessary secure confinement of children by limiting detention to assessed public safety and flight risk
  • Ensuring objectivity, fairness and uniformity (across geographic lines) in detention decision-making
  • Reducing racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice decision making
  • Promoting juvenile justice best practices that are consistent with public protection.

The JDAI applies a collaborative and data-driven approach to detention reform. Participating sites and states must convene stakeholder collaborations to guide reform efforts; must accept the goals and principles of JDAI reform; and must take steps to document detention caseloads and other critical juvenile justice data.

Commonweal has been a JDAI grantee since 1995. and serves as the JDAI’s lead technical assistance advisor on detention risk assessment. Program Director David Steinhart has trained justice system personnel on risk assessment in more than 30 states. In addition, David is the author of multiple JDAI core publications including the widely used Practice Guide to Juvenile Detention Risk Assessment.

California JDAI sites include Santa Cruz (a national JDAI model site), San Francisco, Ventura and Orange Counties. For more information: the JDAI offers a vast library of materials, guides, model instruments and implementation reports from a large pool of sites on its well-designed website at (