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August 19, 2012

Changes in juve justice in Illinois and nationwide

Gr-annual-cost-624A helpful reader alerted me to this new NPR story piece on juvenile crime and punishment. The piece is headlined "Kids Behind Bars: Illinois Rethinks Juvenile Justice," and here are excerpts:

[A] number of states [are] rethinking how it pursues juvenile justice to make sure kids who've committed a crime once don't end up in a juvenile facility again. Nationally, there were more than 70,000 juvenile in residential placement facilities in 2010, according to Census Bureau data. The number was about 2,200 that same year in Illinois.

A damning report from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission called the state youth prison system an expensive failure.  Its study showed that "well over 50 percent of youth" leaving the state's facilities will go back to juvenile facilities — and others will head to adult corrections system.  Some of the juveniles in Illinois' system committed serious offenses, the report shows.  But many others are there for lesser crimes and, officials say, would be better served in treatment or educational programs.

George Timberlake, a retired Illinois judge and the report commission's chairman, says the group observed more than 250 prisoner review board hearings and analyzed the files of about 400 young people whose parole was revoked.  He says many of the juveniles who ended up back in custody didn't commit new crimes, but instead were found guilty of technical violations of a parole order, such as skipping school and staying out late....

While the push to change the culture of Illinois' juvenile justice system may help reduce the number of kids who end up in facilities, it's also tied to the state's deep budget woes. In 2010, the Illinois auditor general said that it costs an average of $86,861 a year to keep a juvenile in Illinois' Youth Centers -- far more than for community-based strategies.

That point is underscored in a 2011 report released by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which shows a dramatic difference nationwide between the average annual cost for housing a juvenile compared with community-based programs and public college tuition. The foundation, which provides financial support to NPR, also says the juvenile incarceration rate is nearly five times higher in the U.S. than in other developed nations. That's despite having "only marginally higher" rates of juvenile violent crimes.

"We really only recently have started to take stock of the developmental differences of young people and adults," says Nancy Gannon Hornberger, executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.  "And in large measure, our juvenile correction system has been modeled after adult corrections."

Nationally, she says, there has been a trend toward treating young people and adults differently when it comes to crime.  Juvenile justice services are migrating to into other state sectors, merging with mental health and education services, for example, rather than being overseen by adult corrections.

The next step in Illinois is already under way.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission just awarded more than $1 million to two groups that will work with juvenile offenders being released but returning to areas that have the highest rates of youth incarceration in the state.

August 19, 2012 at 07:31 PM | Permalink


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Really striking to see the graph on incarceration vs. education. Perhaps the dollars and cents of the issue will help open the policy window on juvenile justice, just as it is doing with drug policy.

Posted by: Gray R. Proctor | Aug 20, 2012 8:57:45 AM

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