Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to Launch in January

Pulaski County has been approved to participate in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), a nationally recognized model created by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to promote detention reform. The model will be implemented in the county under the leadership of the juvenile courts and the Office of the County Judge and County Attorney.

This initiative is an opportunity to improve the “front-end” of the juvenile justice system based on research and evidence-informed practices, as part of larger juvenile justice reforms in the County.

Center for Children’s Law and Policy will provide technical assistance. Pulaski County is the third JDAI site in Arkansas following Benton and Washington Counties. Since implementation, the number of youth committed to state custody in Benton and Washington Counties dropped by 30 and 25 percent respectively.

“Our current juvenile system needs improvement. Having the guidance of JDAI and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we are poised to make the necessary adjustments to the juvenile justice system thereby improving the lives of at-risk youth in Pulaski County,” said County Judge Barry Hyde.

In June, Pulaski County released the findings of its juvenile justice system assessment study performed by the CCLP. Using the JDAI framework, CCLP provided suggestions for areas of improvement including collaboration among stakeholders, data collection and analysis, case processing and alternatives to detention and incarceration programs.

CCLP also provided recommendations for the Pulaski County Juvenile Detention Center “conditions of confinement in facilities that house youth.” These recommendations included discontinuing the use of orange jumpsuits and the 24-hour lock down after admission. Shortly after reviewing the recommendations, the juvenile detention facility discontinued the 24-hour lock down and offers khaki pants and polo shirts as standard attire for those housed in the facility.

“Young people make impulsive decisions but that shouldn’t mean we give up on them. We can hold young people accountable but give them the guidance, education and support they need to get their lives back on track toward a bright future. By working with JDAI, DYS and the juvenile courts that bright future will be realized,” said Hyde.

Pulaski County will host a kick-off meeting Tuesday, January 23 at the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Conference Center at 9 a.m. at 100 Main Street. Representatives from JDAI, DYS and Pulaski County will convene to discuss the process toward participating in the initiative. Speakers will include County Judge Barry Hyde and Pulaski County Circuit Judge Joyce Warren. Governor Asa Hutchinson has been invited attend.

Deputy County Attorney Chastity Scifres presenting one of four training sessions that introduces JDAI core strategies. Attendees represented various organizations and agencies such as DHS, LRPD, LRSD, Circuit Court and the Public Defenders’ Office.