Over Half of Youth Leaving Illinois State Prisons Will Return

Liz Wu
December 14, 2011

Over half of the youth released from Illinois state juvenile detention centers will return in three years or less. A new report released today by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission takes a hard look at the state's juvenile justice system and finds it severely lacking in successful rehabilitation efforts.

Not only is the state failing these kids with its feeder system into the adult criminal justice sytem, it is also failing to keep communities safe while costing taxpayers $86,000 per incarcerated youth per year.

From the press release:

"An essential measurement of any juvenile "reentry" system is whether youth returning from incarceration remain safely and successfully within their communities," according to the report. "By this fundamental measure, Illinois is failing."

The "Youth Reentry Improvement Report" found that the system does little to prepare youth and families for the youths' return home; paroled youth rarely receive needed services or school linkages and too often are returned to expensive youth prisons due to technical parole violations; and Prisoner Review Board (PRB) parole revocation proceedings are largely perfunctory hearings where the youth's due process rights are not protected.

"Our research documented that 54 percent of juveniles being sent to state youth prisons have been there before and are returning because of technical parole violations," said George W. Timberlake, who is Chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and retired chief judge of the Second Judicial Circuit. "The system is not doing enough to rehabilitate juveniles inside and outside prison walls, and it often is too quick to return youth to expensive prisons where failure again is likely.

The report goes on to share strong recommendations for reforming the system to successfully rehabilitate youth, improve public safety, reduce government spending on youth prisons and protect the constitutional rights of youth offenders.

WBEZ has a thorough interview on the report with the commission's chairman, retired Judge George Timberlake. Click here to listen.

Photo by Flickr user abardwell.

This article was originally published on Reclaiming Futures. It is reprinted here with permission.

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