The Attorney General oversees the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC), the state agency responsible for housing and rehabilitating youths who have committed juvenile offenses. For more than a decade, the Attorney General’s Office has worked closely with JJC to reduce the number of New Jersey youths incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, in part by identifying alternatives to incarceration and detention at the county and state level. Among the goals of the effort is to close the state’s largest juvenile detention facility – the New Jersey Training School, known as “Jamesburg” – and replacing it with smaller, regional facilities in next few years.
- Serving as a national model for juvenile justice reform. In 2004, the Annie E. Casey Foundation selected New Jersey to be among the first states to adopt an innovative program known as the “Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative” (JDAI). Since then, New Jersey has gradually expanded JDAI from an initial pilot program in 5 counties – and in 2018, reached its goal of establishing the initiative in all 21 counties across the state. As a result of New Jersey’s efforts, the Casey Foundation named New Jersey a “State Model Site” and representatives from 17 states have traveled to New Jersey since 2008 to learn about the effort.
- Reducing the number of youth in the juvenile system. In 2003, the year before New Jersey launched its JDAI initiative, approximately 12,000 youths were admitted to county detention centers pending resolution of their court cases, and approximately 1,200 youths were committed to the custody of JJC’s detention facilities. In 2018, the number of juveniles detained in county facilities had declined more than 80%, to approximately 2,500 youths, and the number committed to JJC facilities had declined by approximately 85%, to 176 youths. Of particular importance, youth of color accounted for more than 80% of the reduction in juveniles committed to both county and state facilities.
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