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Furthermore …

A smarter approach with youthful offenders

Allen County joins a forward-thinking group of Indiana counties this week with announcement of its participation in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

JDAI is a kinder, smarter approach to juvenile justice, aimed at helping young offenders instead of simply locking them up. Superior Court Judge Daniel Heath deserves credit for Allen County’s participation. With the 10 other counties announced this week, 19 Indiana counties will now be JDAI sites. Almost $6 million in state funds are available to support the initiative.

JDAI was created in 1992 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in response to increasing rates of juvenile incarceration. In the 100-plus communities where it has been implemented, fewer juveniles are being arrested for serious offenses and less money is spent building or expanding detention facilities.

Much research supports efforts to keep children out of detention. Youth who have been incarcerated are more likely to drop out of school and to use drugs and alcohol. They are more likely to be re-arrested, less likely to find jobs and less likely to form stable families. JDAI represents a stark departure for juvenile justice in Allen County, but it’s likely to portend a better outcome for taxpayers and – most important – for the young people whose first brushes with the law are more likely to be their last.