Pulaski County JDAI program

The Pulaski Circuit Court’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) program has been part of the local justice system since 2016. JDAI is a bipartisan movement for juvenile justice reinvestment, moving government resources away from mass juvenile incarceration and toward investment in youth, families, and communities. JDAI programs are found all over the country and are present in 33 counties in Indiana. JDAI promotes placement of the right kids, in the right places, for the right reasons, for the right amount of time.

For more than 20 years nationally in both urban and rural jurisdictions, JDAI has demonstrated that moving low-risk youth from secure detention into community-based alternative programs is excellent public policy.

“Each JDAI program is tailored to the needs of the individual community it serves,” said Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker. “Our JDAI programs continue to not only reduce detention of our juveniles, but also in these difficult times, still provide services to our Pulaski County students. While the services may be delivered differently, we continue assisting our youth. “

Pulaski County JDAI continues leading the way for innovative rural juvenile programs that work to support not only our youth who are on probation, but also help prevent youth from coming into the local justice system. Dr. Natalie Tucker has served as JDAI coordinator for the program since its inception in Pulaski County. The programs are administered through Pulaski Circuit Court under Judge Mary Welker, who continued the programs that began under previous Circuit Court Judge Michael Shurn.

“Due to the JDAI program, we have been able to bring in around $250,000 in grant funding to Pulaski County to develop programs for at-risk youth. We are currently in a grant cycle for $58,000 in JDAI funds,” said Dr. Tucker. “When I started in this role in late 2016, the Pulaski County taxpayers were paying between $25,000 and $30,000 to hold Pulaski County youth in Juvenile Justice Centers. We had limited supports/services for at-risk youth in our community. In 2019, this cost dropped to less than $500 as we have built numerous programs to support at-risk youth with JDAI funding.”

Dr. Tucker, along with Judges, Probation, Law Enforcement, and a JDAI board of stakeholders, has been able to establish policies and procedures that guide the local juvenile justice system. These include a detention screening tool, numerous programs for at risk-youth and professional development for the local justice system.

Currently, there are two programs provided by JDAI. These programs are in our middle schools and high schools in Pulaski County: an At-risk youth mentor program, and a Truancy reduction program. These programs have supported over 100 youth in Pulaski County over the past 3 years. Youth and their families get additional support, family engagement tools, and direct contact with staff that are caring, resourceful and help to build resistance for these families/youth.

“Seeing the impact that the JDAI programs have is rewarding for all involved, including the youth and families,” said Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker. “The programs aim for equal treatment for all juveniles. Also, when appropriate, these programs allow youth to remain in their homes and communities, so they can succeed where they live. These programs give our youths and families tools they can use in real life and in their own lives”

Another program that JDAI has made available is Policing the Teen Brian training. Local law Enforcement (Officer Phil Foerg) and Dr. Daily-Federer were trained to teach this program. They have now trained over 30 people in this program. Those trained include: local law enforcement, Jail staff, Sheriff Department staff, probation officers, and law enforcement from neighboring counties. The program focuses on how to best engage with juveniles as they perform their own jobs.

“JDAI is managed at the state level and through the Indiana Department of Corrections (DOC). All grant funding is administered, audited, and reported monthly, quarterly and annually to the DOC,” said Dr. Tucker. “Just managing the funding, grant reporting, claims processing, twice annual audits, etc. takes a tremendous amount of time. These grants also require monthly performance reports, annual performance measure outcomes and annual plans of work to be filed with every grant and with the DOC.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is the founder of the JDAI program and is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. This foundation focuses on strengthening families, building stronger communities and ensuring access to opportunity, because children need all three to succeed. They do this by advancing research and solutions to overcome the barriers to success, help communities demonstrate what works, and influence decision makers to invest in strategies based on solid evidence. Learn more about the Annie E. Casey Foundation here.

When the Foundation launched JDAI as a pilot project in the early 1990s, overreliance on detention was widespread and growing nationwide. Using a model rooted in eight core strategies, JDAI proved effective in helping participating jurisdictions safely reduce their juvenile detention populations. Based on its success, JDAI has been adopted by an ever-growing number of jurisdictions, leading to dramatic declines in juvenile detention populations.

Indiana is one of nearly 300 JDAI sites in 40 states and the District of Columbia implementing the JDAI process and the 8 core strategies to enhance and improve their juvenile justice systems. Indiana continues to be a national leader in advancing the cause of an equitable and effective juvenile justice system. JDAI is overseen by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Department of Child Services, Indiana FSSA: Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Indiana Department of Correction and Indiana Department of Education.

For more information about the Pulaski County JDAI program, contact Dr. Tucker.