Nate Balis will become the second leader of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), a 22-year-old reform effort aimed at decreasing the use of pre-trial juvenile detention.
Balis has overseen the foundation’s recent efforts to expand the scope of JDAI to include post-adjudication commitments. Casey began work on incarceration in 2011 and set a goal of reducing juvenile incarceration by 50 percent in America over 10 years.
“Nate is a leader with the vision, energy and skills to work with Foundation staff, advocates and decision makers to accelerate positive reforms in the juvenile justice system,” said Annie E. Casey CEO Patrick McCarthy.
He will succeed JDAI’s architect, Bart Lubow, as director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group. Lubow announced in January that he would step down soon as head of the group, but stay on in a consulting capacity with the foundation.
“I’m thrilled, I think he’s going to be great” Lubow said of the foundation’s selection, in a phone call with The Chronicle of Social Change.
Balis has worked for or with the Baltimore-based foundation for nearly a decade. He managed its partnerships with New York City and Alabama, which both brought Casey in to help with policy plans aimed at lowering the use of commitments.
Before joining the foundation in 2007, Balis spent five years working for the Washington, D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the city’s juvenile justice agency.
JDAI began in 1992, in the foundation’s old Greenwich, Conn. offices. At its core, JDAI supports and assists juvenile justice systems interested in using risk assessment to determine the need for pre-trial detention, with allowances for judges to override the assessments based on case-by-case information.
The initiative began with five project sites in Florida, and the cultural backdrop was a get-tough philosophy toward young offenders that drove an increase in the use of pre-trial juvenile detention and transfers to the adult court system. There are now 250 jurisdictions in 39 states involved in JDAI.
“JDAI will remain one of Casey’s signature initiatives and its recent expansion without interruption,” Lubow wrote in a letter to colleagues. “We anticipate no major changes in our support for sites and for organizations that promote this work.”
Lubow will be relocating to Louisiana, he told The Chronicle, and will remain with Casey as a senior consultant “and a friend to Nate.”
Balis will take over in July, one month after a national JDAI conference in Philadelphia.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change