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Juvy Justice Conference: End Solitary Confinement

Experts from around the country are in Arizona to talk about juvenile justice reform, including ending solitary confinement. Credit: Alptraum/iStock
Experts from around the country are in Arizona to talk about juvenile justice reform, including ending solitary confinement. Credit: Alptraum/iStock
September 28, 2015

HELENA, Mont. - No more solitary confinement for kids. The harm it causes, including deaths, is too great, according to experts attending a conference in Arizona today on the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, referred to as JDAI.

JDAI is in place in four Montana jurisdictions with the goal of keeping kids out of secured facilities. Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Justice Strategy Group director Nate Balis says the program came about after decades of documented abuse in juvenile detention centers and disparities regarding which kids were being locked up.

"Ensuring that it's done equitably in terms of gender, and particularly race and ethnicity, and making sure that young people who are in detention are in environments that are safe and that they're there for the shortest amount of time," says Balis.

Balis says JDAI sites have seen reductions in daily juvenile detention populations, and declines in detention sentencings, both by at least 40 percent. Additionally, he says public safety is still top of mind.

"It's been accomplished without any harm to public safety, and in fact if we look across sites, we see juvenile crime down by almost half since they started JDAI," says Balis.

The conference will also include a discussion on closing all youth prisons because of widespread maltreatment. The Annie E. Casey Foundation sponsors the conference.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT