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Racial Disparities Persist in Juvenile Detention Admissions

While the total number of Illinois juveniles placed in detention facilities has declined over the years, racial inequalities persist in terms of those placed in such facilities. The state must continue to move forward with critical reforms, needed to ensure that all juveniles – regardless of race – are given an equal opportunity to lead successful lives.

Enlarge to full screen for interactive chart on rates/1,000 for Black and White Youth:

Enlarge to full screen for interactive chart on rates/1,000 for Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Youth:

Read the full report, Addressing Persistent Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Detention in Illinois, from Voices for Illinois Children:

Download (PDF, 694KB)


Budget Impasse Means More Youth at Risk of Incarceration, More Back Bills

Youth prevention and alternative to incarceration programs make communities safer, improve a youth’s chances for success, and save the state unnecessary incarceration costs. Unfortunately, as this Fiscal Policy Center report shows, the damage the ongoing budget crisis has done to two community-based prevention and rehabilitation programs for youth—Redeploy Illinois and Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Programs (CCBYS) is putting more youth at risk of incarceration.

Both Redeploy and CCBYS programs prevent or divert thousands of youth away from incarceration and the child welfare system. Yet, the “stopgap” budget adopted by the state earlier this year cut spending levels by about one-third from previous spending levels. All spending on Redeploy Illinois and CCBYS ceases beginning January 1, 2017 when the stopgap measure expires. Without new revenue, any continuation of Redeploy Illinois and CCBYS would only add to Illinois’ growing backlog of bills (currently at $10.4 billion).

When it is fully funded, Redeploy Illinois saves money and keeps children out of prison. Illinois counties participating in Redeploy Illinois have reduced the number of youths going to prison by 58 percent, or nearly 1,800 youth, saving the state an estimated $88 million in incarceration costs between 2005 and 2014.

Similarly, with a fully-funded CCBYS program, youth receive crisis intervention services designed to prevent entry to the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. In the last year, without funding, more than half of CCBYS providers have reduced services, with roughly 7,000 youth put on wait lists, not receiving the services they need, or needing to travel far from home to get help.

Illinois Can Do Better by Investing in Youth

Incarceration Costs 29X More Than Redeploy-webThere’s a way that Illinois can do more to make sure young people thrive and our communities are safer.

As the Fiscal Policy Center report, Invest in Youth — Not Prisons, makes clear, Illinois would help young people and save money by directing state resources toward community-based programs instead of incarcerating young offenders.

Each year Illinois spends heavily to incarcerate youth who come into conflict with the law. But young people who are placed in prison often don’t do well and end up re-offending after they’re released. Fortunately, we can change the course for thousands of Illinois youth by investing in communities, schools, and their future, instead of continuing to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into an ineffective, punitive system.

Although Illinois has been moving in the right direction by reducing the use of youth incarceration, the state has continued to fund a costly juvenile justice system at the expense of public safety, draining resources needed for important investments in prevention and rehabilitation services.

It costs 29 times more money to incarcerate one youth at Illinois Youth Centers (IYC)—youth prisons operated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ)—than it does to divert one youth to a community-based alternative program. In fiscal year 2016, the average cost to incarcerate one youth was about $172,000 annually, compared to an average of just $6,000 per youth through Redeploy Illinois.

Redeploy Illinois—a community-based alternative to incarceration— and many of the programs intended to improve public safety and help rehabilitate youth have gone without funding, leaving more young people at risk of entering the juvenile justice system which hurts families and drives up state costs.

Even with the passage of the “stopgap” budget at the end of June, uncertainty remains for many programs that have scaled back while others have closed altogether.

Illinois can do better to improve the lives of young people and keep our neighborhoods safe by investing in alternative programs in communities that need it the most. Black youth are incarcerated at far higher rates in Illinois than white youth. And the disparities have grown despite reduced incarceration in Illinois. Although black youth represent 17 percent of Illinois’ youth population (ages 12-17), in 2015 they made up 69 percent of youth incarcerated at youth prisons across the state, up from 56 percent in 2006. White youth make up 54 percent of the Illinois youth population (ages 12-17), but only 19 percent of all youth incarcerated, down from a third in 2006.

These disparities show that Illinois needs to do more to make sure community-based programs benefit all justice-involved youth, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Illinois must make sure community-based alternative approaches reach black and Hispanic youth, especially in areas of concentrated poverty where scarce resources exist. Investment in these communities along with a sustained effort to promote cultural and linguistic competency in programming are the first steps to promote success for youth of color.

If Illinois moved away from spending on large prisons that are harmful and ineffective, the state’s juvenile justice system could be transformed—giving youth a better chance of leading productive lives and helping communities to thrive. Here are the steps that need to be taken for that to happen:

  • Invest in community-based responses to juvenile delinquency, not prisons.
  • Fully support and expand Redeploy Illinois.
  • Create a state youth investment fund so money saved from reducing incarceration goes toward community-based approaches.
  • Support and improve educational and employment opportunities for youth who are disconnected from both school and work.

For more information about the high cost of incarceration and FPC’s recommendations for improving the lives of Illinois’ youth, please see our report.

It’s Time to Close Kewanee ‘Youth Center’

Kewanee Youth CenterVoices President Tasha Green Cruzat support Governor Rauner’s plan to close the Illinois Youth Center at Kewanee in a Chicago Tribune op-ed with Hoy McConnell, executive director of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. The Kewanee “youth center,” Cruzat and McConnell point out, is a misnomer. While “youth center” brings to mind “images of carefree youths engaged in games, sports and enriching educational activities,” the facility at “Kewanee is a prison — a prison for youths.”

The Kewanee youth prison, which is located 150 miles southwest of Chicago, fails to meet the needs of youth. As a result, many youth “will leave Kewanee in worse condition than when they entered and be more likely to reoffend.”

The facility is also very costly to operate. Built to incarcerate about 350 youth, Kewanee now only imprisons about 60 youth. Cruzat and McConnell call for the savings of closing the Kewanee youth prison to be used to support community based services for youth that are much more effective and cost far less.

To read the full op-ed, visit Chicago Tribune’s website.