Program to keep kids out of jail expands to new counties, thanks to success

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 2, 2016) -- A program that's gaining traction across the state when it comes to youth crime is expanding into 13 new counties.

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, or JDAI, will start up in Hendricks, Hamilton, and Owen counties, among others statewide.

FOX59 sat down with Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David, who co-chairs the initiative, to talk about it. David, a former juvenile court judge, admitted he had not been on board at first.

"I was not a true believer. I’m a convert," David said.

That's because David said he's seen the program offer real alternatives to judges who previously didn't have many resources, other than to send a child to juvenile detention or back into their homes.

"(Now) we’re getting the attention and the services to those children, (giving them) what they need," David said.

The national program, which started in Indiana a decade ago in Marion County, works by tracking kids who get in trouble and offering alternatives that vary county-by-county.

The program is working, according to the state. By 2014, counties with JDAI had dropped their admissions to juvenile detention by 44 percent and the average daily population at the facilities was down by 34 percent. A representative also said that it had saved counties and the state ten of millions of dollars in tax money.

David also said there had been no adverse effect on public safety.

"It’s not a question of: 'We’re not going to detain them, we’ll save money, but they’re going to be out causing mischief in the community.' (That's) not happening. In fact, the recidivism rate is going down," David said.

Adriann Young, the Area Director for United Way of Central Indiana's West district in Hendricks County, said that more programs targeting kids are welcome.

"The more we can implement and really target the at-risk kids, I think, the better," Young said. "If we don’t help them at that young age, that there’s an alternative path, then the cycle will never break."

That's exactly why David thinks the program is part of the future of an overhaul to the juvenile justice system, and he believes every member of the community can contribute something to help.

"Children under the age of 18 make up less than 25 percent of the population of Indiana but 100 percent of its future. ... It’s a great opportunity for your viewers to say, 'What can I do? What is my county doing? How can I be a part of this?'" David said.

For more information on the JDAI program, go to the link here.