Alternatives to Detention

New or enhanced non-secure alternatives to detention programs increase the options available for arrested youth by providing supervision, structure and accountability. Detention alternative programs target only those youth who would otherwise be detained, and typically include: electronic monitoring, house arrest, community monitoring, day or evening reporting centers, and shelter beds for youth who cannot return home.The most effective juvenile justice systems have a program continuum that both responds to the legal status of youth and ensures that they can also be safely supervised in the community. Pre-adjudicated youth, programming should be linked to their level of risk of Failure-to-Appear or re-arrest; post-adjudication programming should be linked to the dispositional purposes the court seeks to accomplish (i.e., sanctions or rehabilitative goals). Programs should also be able to respond to compliance failures by increasing contact and case management activities instead of automatically terminating participation for noncompliance. Whether pre-adjudication or post-adjudication, ATDs should be grounded in an understanding of adolescent development and behavior, and program activities should reflect youths’ needs, cultures and traditions.

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​​Best Practices

Home Detention

Home or Community detention is a form of community-based supervision that can serve as the lesser restrictive ATD and can be used in combination with other alternatives: ​​

Electronic Monitoring/GPS

Electronic monitoring and GPS can be an effective and cost efficient alternative to detention. Technology has advanced to allow for both passive and active systems that can alert appropriate individuals about the location of youth. Electronic monitoring is often used for surveillance of house arrest and curfew conditions.

Placement Coordination

Placement coordination typically occurs prior to detention hearings and seeks to facilitate releases from detention for youth who can safely be released with an appropriate ATD. This staffing includes a placement coordinator/expeditor, defense representation, prosecutor and other system representatives relevant to staffed cases. The purpose of the staffing is to review the RAI score and discuss a pretrial release plan.

Day/Evening Reporting Center

Day and evening reporting centers target youth needing extra supervision during the day and/or evening. A combination of programming is available to youth and the centers are usually community-based and operated by a youth-service agency.​​

Shelter/Foster Care Beds

Short-term respite or crisis beds are ATDs reserved for those youth who do not need to be securely detained, but do not have a viable home environment to return to pending adjudication.

Reception Center

Reception centers usually operate 24hours/7day/week as an alternative to detention for screening youth who do not meet the criteria for detention. Law enforcement can release arrested youth to the Reception Center staff who typically are trained social workers and whose main role is to screen youth, work to reunify youth with a parent or guardian, explain the next steps and offer counseling if appropriate.

JDAI Helpdesk at the Pretrial Justice Institute
305 Main Street, Suite 200
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Tel: 240-477-7152 | E-mail: