Objective Admissions

Detention admissions policies and practices must distinguish between the youth who are likely to flee or commit new crimes and those who are not. JDAI sites develop detention Risk Assessment Instruments to objectively screen youth to determine which youth can be safely supervised in the community. Absent an objective approach, high-risk offenders may be released and low-risk offenders detained.​

 Tools & Resources


  JDAI Model Sites​​​


Best Practices

Detention Admissions Criteria

Most states have statutes authorizing secure juvenile detention and setting out basic detention criteria. Unfortunately, most state statutes are rather vague regarding eligibility for detention, which means that almost any youth can be brought to a secure juvenile detention center for possible admission. Sites develop juvenile detention admission guidelines for use by police officers in the field. If a youth doesn’t meet these guidelines, a summons will typically be issued and the youth released without a trip to the detention center.​​

Risk Assessment Validation

Validation refers to the process of confirming the predictive value of the RAI in relation to two specific outcome measures: the occurrence of a new offense (arrest or adjudication) pending court or a failure to appear in court. This form of validation is also sometimes referred to as public safety testing of the RAI. Validation is the ultimate test of the efficacy of the detention risk instrument.

24/7 Screening

Detention screening, including the use of an objective screening instrument and the authority to make decisions to release youth with or without conditions, takes place 24 hours/day and seven days/week. ​

Risk Assessment

JDAI sites use Detention Risk Assessment Instruments (RAIs) as a tool for Objective Detention Admissions Screening to ensure that youth are screened and treated consistently, according to state statute and evidence-based risk criteria. Screening instruments are “triage” tools and use a point scale to assign points for each risk factor to produce a total risk score that would fall into a “high/medium/low” scheme. The total risk score is then compared to an outcome or decision scale indicating a detention result: youth scoring “high” are held in secure detention; youth scoring “low” are released outright; and youth who score in the medium range are eligible for release to detention alternatives.

​​Juvenile Detention Risk Assessment Monitoring

Once the RAI is implemented, it must be monitored carefully to document its effects over time and to ensure that it remains compatible with changing legal and caseload trends. Basic monitoring procedures should be adopted as well as annual reviews of the risk instrument to keep it up-to-date.
JDAI Helpdesk at the Pretrial Justice Institute
305 Main Street, Suite 200
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Tel: 240-477-7152 | E-mail: jdaihelpdesk@pretrial.org