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Juvenile justice reform initiative offers alternative options

Allen County is among 11 counties joining a state initiative to find alternatives to locking up juveniles.

The new counties increase membership in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, or JDAI, to 19, thanks to $5.5 million in funding over two years approved by the General Assembly.

JDAI is a national juvenile justice reform initiative, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation 20 years ago, to improve outcomes for children in the justice system while ensuring public safety.

Officials say that while some children in trouble need secure detention, others have better outcomes when alternatives are in place.

JDAI began in Indiana in 2006 in Marion County with the goal of placing the right children in the right place for the right reasons for the right amount of time, officials said. During the next few years, Johnson, Porter, Lake, Tippecanoe, Elkhart, Howard and Clark counties joined the initiative.

With the upcoming expansion, as many as 56 percent of Indiana youths ages 10-17 will live in a JDAI county.

Joining JDAI are Allen, Bartholomew, Boone, Delaware, Henry, LaGrange, LaPorte, Madison, St. Joseph, Vanderburgh and Wayne counties.

Within Indiana, JDAI is overseen by an executive team, four organizations that have a vested interest in the juvenile justice system: the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, the Indiana Supreme Court, the Indiana Department of Correction and the Indiana Department of Child Services.