ANGOLA — The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is paying dividends in Steuben County, its coordinator reported to the Steuben County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

While speaking before the commissioners, JDAI Coordinator Kathy Armstrong presented statistics showing three categories regarding juvenile detention in Steuben County.

The bottom line: There is a downward trend in the three main metrics she provided commissioners.

Perhaps most significant were reductions in the number of children sent to detention and the obvious cost of detention.

“I attribute this to everybody coming together and changing the perspective in the community on what we do,” Armstrong said.

The program focuses on reallocation of public resources from mass incarceration toward investment in youth, families and communities.

“This reinvestment provides an opportunity for lasting improvement to public safety,” said information provided by the Indiana Department of Corrections’ Division of Youth Services.

The goal of the program is to use more community based programs with the hope of keeping juveniles out of structured detention programs that often lead to juveniles becoming better delinquents.

Armstrong’s data said from juvenile referrals in the Steuben County court systems — through the Steuben Circuit Court — went from 159 in 2016 to 78 in the third quarter of 2019, though there was a spike in 2018.

The JDAI program started in 2016 in Steuben County.

In 2016 there were 31 detentions in Steuben County, dropping to 20 in each of 2017 and 2018 and now down to five to date this year.

Perhaps most significant was the fact that detention costs have gone from about $90,000 in 2016 to $28,000 through most of this year. Prior to the start of the program, in 2015 detention costs were approaching $102,000.

In 25 years, JDAI has proven that the juvenile justice system’s dual goals of promoting positive youth development and enhancing public safety are not in conflict and can be greatly strengthened by eliminating the use of secure detention. Indiana is one of approximately 300 JDAI sites in 40 states and the District of Columbia to implement the Eight Core Strategies to enhance and improve their juvenile justice systems. These sites are home to approximately 30% of the nation’s youth ages 10–17.

Indiana joined the program in 2006, with Marion County being the first to participate. There are now 31 counties in the program, which covers some 69% of the state’s youth ages 10-17, or more than 500,000 youth.

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