C.L.I.C.K. for Justice and Equality is an agent of communication alerting our social community of injustices and inequalities among the socially disadvantaged and disenfranchised individual. C.L.I.C.K. developed and created this website to assist the socially disenfranchised or disadvantaged individual in litigating their issues in Federal and State courts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission Releases Youth Reentry Improvement Report

Subject: The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission Releases Youth Reentry Improvement Report

Dear Member of the Collaborative on Reentry:
Today, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission released the "Youth Reentry Improvement Report" with findings and recommendations for increasing the likelihood that young offenders will succeed after their release from state youth prisons.
A fact sheet about the report and the complete report can be found here:  http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=58025
Before making these recommendations, the Commission conducted an extensive study of how decisions are made in the state's reentry system, which includes the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the Prisoner Review Board (PRB), and parole officers with the Department of Corrections.  Commission members observed 237 PRB hearings and found that parole hearings were rushed, often perfunctory and relied heavily on summary information presented by DJJ. The Commission also reviewed the incarceration, clinical, and parole history of 386 youth whose parole was revoked between December 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010 to determine the extent of screening and services received both inside DJJ and while on parole.
The study concluded that the state's juvenile reentry system is broken but not beyond repair. See press below and listen to WBEZ for an interview with Honorable George Timberlake (Retired Judge and Commission Chairperson).
Bloomington Pantagraph
Dec. 13, 2011

Report: State's juvenile prison system broken

By Kurt Erickson | kurt.erickson@lee.net | Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 12:00 am
SPRINGFIELD — A task force says the state must implement a laundry list of changes if it wants to end an expensive revolving door within the state's juvenile prisons.
In a report to be formally released today, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission said it hopes its recommendations could put an end to statistics showing that more than one-half of the youth released from the state's eight youth prisons return in three years or less.
In addition, the "Youth Re-entry Improvement Report" outlines ways the state might be able to reduce the cost of its youth prisons, protect the constitutional rights of juveniles and increase the likelihood that young offenders will become responsible adults.
"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 changes could affect the operation of the state's existing juvenile facilities, which include the Illinois youth centers at Murphysboro and Harrisburg. On average, the state spends $86,000 annually on each of the estimated 1,100 juveniles sent to the prisons, even though reports show that many of the facilities fail to offer adequate educational and vocational opportunities.
"Some of those youth may need to be there for public safety reasons. However, many more of them could be rehabilitated for far less money in their home communities," Timberlake said.
Rather than automatically returning youth to the prisons for technical parole violations, the state should develop graduated sanctions that could be imposed as an alternative, the report notes.
Such changes could come with an upfront cost, but offer long-term savings. For example, replacing an aging computer system could help the Department of Juvenile Justice improve its tracking of individual treatment programs for youth.
The report also criticized parole revocation proceedings, saying a youth's right to a lawyer and due process are not protected. In addition, the report suggests that prisoner review board members should receive training on how juvenile offenders are different than those over 21.
The report says the state could save at least $79,500 per youth in the system each year if it moved more inmates out of the facilities and into community-based programs that are tailored to the needs of each youth.
The recommendations, which are being turned over to the governor and the General Assembly, are part of a first ever study of the effectiveness of the state's system of moving juvenile offenders back into their home communities.
In addition to interviewing scores of participants in the system, Commission members observed 237 parole hearings and analyzed the files of 386 youth whose parole was revoked between Dec. 1, 2009, and May 31, 2010.
Below is the AP story with additional information inserted by Daily Herald reporter Kerry Lester.  And below that is Rob Wildeboer's story.  Go to that link to listen to his interview with Judge Timberlake.
The Daily Herald
Dec. 13, 2011
Illinois youth prisons fail inmates, society, report says
Illinois' youth prison system is an expensive failure with more than half of young offenders returning within three years of their release, many of them for trivial problems such as skipping school and staying out late, according to a new report.
The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission made the report for Gov. Pat Quinn and the legislature and issued it publicly Tuesday. The report makes recommendations it says could save nearly $80,000 per imprisoned youth annually, without sacrificing public safety.
"We can do a better job," said commission chairman Judge George Timberlake, retired chief justice of the Second Circuit Court. "We can make the public safer. We can improve the outcomes for kids who come into contact with the juvenile justice system and we can do it at a lower cost than we do now."
Recent Daily Herald stories have focused on conditions at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, where the John Howard Association, a prison monitoring group, found crumbling buildings, filthy showers and overflowing garbage cans during a tour in May. "Safety beds" designed to minimize suicide risk had not yet been installed in all rooms, nearly two years after a 16-year-old boy killed himself using a bed railing and other materials.
Illinois has more than 1,000 young people in custody in eight prisons, with an additional 1,600 on parole. The Department of Juvenile Justice's operating budget for 2012 is nearly $124 million.
The report, required by a 2009 state law, was based on an examination of the system, including observations of nearly 240 prisoner review board hearings, which had never before been open to public review. The commission also analyzed the files of 386 young people whose parole was revoked from December 2009 through May 2010.
During those six months, more than half the youths whose parole was revoked — 54 percent — were sent back to prison for technicalities such as truancy and curfew violations. Problems beyond a young person's control, such as adults at home not paying a phone bill, also can land a young offender back in prison.
Parole officers handle both adults and youths with caseloads averaging 100, Timberlake said. They receive no special training for dealing with young people, he said. Rarely do they refer young parolees to programs that could help them with jobs, substance abuse or mental health issues.
"You have officers who are overworked and who don't have adequate training," Timberlake said. "It's easy to say, 'It's a violation. I'm writing it up,' and the kid goes back inside the prison."
What's more, young offenders typically stay on parole until their 21st birthdays, increasing the likelihood of returning to custody. The report recommends that the length of parole should be limited.
The retired judge said he was surprised to find that Illinois youths are systematically deprived of their constitutional rights in decisions regarding parole revocations. The report recommends that judges preside over parole revocation hearings, rather than prisoner review boards.
"I did not suspect some of these things," Timberlake said. "The lack of opportunity for kids to understand and exercise their rights on revocation was a huge revelation to me."
A pilot program in Cook County offers an alternative model that should be expanded, according to the report's recommendations. The Department of Juvenile Justice has hired 20 "aftercare specialists" and two supervisors in Cook County who are trained to focus on young people getting out of prison. Funded through federal stimulus dollars, the aftercare specialists started handling cases in late April.
The governor's office is reviewing the report and its recommendations, said Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson. A committee already is developing a training program for prisoner review board members on juvenile issues, she said.
"The governor is very interested in pushing forward with reform and substantially reducing the recidivism rate," Anderson said.
Dec. 13, 2011
A new report is shining light on a part of the juvenile justice system that has never been subject to public review: Parole board hearings.
"An essential measurement of any juvenile 'reentry' system is whether youth returning from incarceration remain safe and successful within their communities," the report finds. "By this fundamental measure, Illinois is failing."
Those are the first lines from a report that is highly critical of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.  The report is the work of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, a state advisory group.
Kids sent to prison don't go for a set amount of time because the idea is that they'll be released once they're rehabilitated. One of the only ways they can get out is by winning parole. But those hearings are riddled with problems, according to the commission.
Commissioners sat in on 230 review board hearings, which outsiders have typically not been allowed to observe. They say kids who are denied parole are rarely told why. In one instance the hearing officer told a youth to sign a blank form stating that they understood the decision of the board, even though the hearing hadn't started yet and no decision had been reached.
Things like that make it hard for the kids to reform their behavior for the next hearing, and ultimately result in more kids being incarcerated at the cost of $87,000 per year.
Commissioners, including the director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Arthur Bishop, will be talking about the report Tuesday. Bishop is a member of the commission that is releasing the report that is so critical of his own department.
You can hear WBEZ's Robert Wildeboer discuss the report with the commission's chairman, retired Judge George Timberlake.

ABC7 eNews

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