Attorney General Grewal Issues Directive to Further Transform State’s Juvenile Justice System
TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today issued a statewide directive to law enforcement establishing policies, practices, and procedures to further juvenile justice reform by diverting juveniles away from law enforcement and toward social or familial support whenever possible consistent with public safety and welfare.
Over the past two decades, New Jersey has emerged as a national leader in juvenile justice reform. Since 2003, the year before New Jersey implemented a groundbreaking program known as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), the total number of juveniles in detention per year has dropped by 80 percent, from about 12,000 to less than 2,500, with youth of color accounting for almost 90 percent of the decline. Further, youth who are placed in detention alternative programs in lieu of detention receive supervision and support in their communities while awaiting the outcome of their case in court. These reforms have not only reduced the number of juveniles sent to secure detention, but resulted in deep and dramatic systemic changes. The decline in numbers has allowed multiple detention centers to merge their operations and share services. At the start of JDAI, there were 17 county-operated detention centers in New Jersey; today there are seven. The reduction in the number of juveniles in pretrial detention has also led to a reduction in the number of juveniles committed to state custody at sentencing. Directive 2020-12 is intended to build upon these successes and push forward the next phase of New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Reform efforts.