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Illinois to Rethink Juvenile Justice Recidivism and Lockup Aftercare

September 5th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

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observed more than 250 prisoner review board hearings and analyzed the files of about 400 young people whose parole was revoked.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.

“How many teenagers do you know who are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there?” Timberlake says. “Certainly, they need to be educated that time matters and it affects other people’s schedules, but doesn’t mean they need to be back in prison because of it.”

Arthur Bishop, director of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Department, has been on the job for less than two years. He began his career as a caseworker in the state’s child welfare agency. He says his team is in place to change the way kids in the system are treated. It’s pretty simple, Bishop says: Treat kids who commit crimes more like kids, and less like adults.

The old model still exists, Bishop says. Parole officers who aren’t necessarily trained to work with youth still handle many of the juvenile cases, but a new test model is up and running in the Chicago area.

Bishop says as soon as a young person arrives at a youth center, an aftercare specialist will begin to work with him or her, assessing any needs, like mental health issues. They may also have to develop a plan for their release.

“Not only does that aftercare specialist work with the youth, but they also begin to engage with families. And I’m emphasizing these points because that’s not historically done,” Bishop says. “Families are often put on what I call the ‘pay no mind’ list because many of the families … have the same — I’ll use my scientific word — ‘messed up’ backgrounds.”

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.

If you find yourself in a criminal situation you will need all the help you can get. Do not hesitate to get qualified legal help as soon as possible. Contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney today to determine the best course of action for dealing with your criminal charges.

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Written by Staff Writer

September 5th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

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