- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) - An effort in Lake County seeks to keep juvenile offenders out of jail by providing them with alternatives.

Lake County has seen success in offering kids alternatives to incarceration, including home detention, day and evening reporting programs, residential alternatives and foster care, the Post-Tribune (https://trib.in/1nqNYjB ) reported.

In 2015, about 970 juveniles went through the intake system at the Lake County Juvenile Justice Complex, but only about 530 of them were detained for at least one day, according to Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., senior judge of the juvenile division. By comparison, about 1,030 juveniles went through intake in 2014 and about 580 of them were detained for at least a day.

“Statistically, how that pans out, this is the debate to look at how we find that happy medium,” Stefaniak said.

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative was launched in 1992 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to safely lower incarceration levels for juveniles by analyzing each child’s situation individually and providing a variety of alternatives to jail. The program has been implemented in almost 200 jurisdictions in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

“As we are operating under (Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative) principles, we have to determine how to detain the right kid for the right reasons for the right time, all while balancing that with public safety,” Stefaniak said.

Stefaniak plans to talk with the county’s police department about the best ways they can apply the program’s principles.

“Because Lake County is so large, there is no way to effectively communicate with all of the men and women out on the street on how it works, so there is some misapprehension,” Stefaniak said.

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