Illinois program for youthful offenders cuts kids in jail by 65%

Redeploy Illinois, a community-based alternative to incarceration, is seeing success by keeping youth offenders in their home communities, organizers say.

For decades, most juvenile offenders in Illinois were sent to juvenile detention. But, 17 years ago, state officials decided there had to be a better way to help kids headed down the wrong path.

The program, considered a model for other states, evaluates the young person’s life situation and provides social services to prevent further brushes with the law.

George Timberlake, a retired judge and former chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, who was active in developing the program, said it benefits the youth, their family and the community.

“It has been successful, not only to not make things worse for the kid in the justice system, but also to actually improve the chances that kid wasn’t going to simply learn how to be a crook in prison,” Timberlake said.

Since 2005, Redeploy Illinois has provided services to more than 4,800 young people and their families, with measurable results. And, by this year, commitments to juvenile facilities were down by 65%.

Timberlake pointed out that kids who enter the juvenile justice system often struggle with such issues as poverty, substance use, mental health challenges or trauma, all of which can contribute to risk-taking or criminal behavior.

“There is much more upfront assessment of, ‘What do we have here?’ And there’s much more of saying to the offender, not, ‘What did you do?’ But, ‘What happened to you?’ That kid’s history is the most important thing that we can discover through assessment,” Timberlake noted.

Timberlake added the previous hard-line approach to juvenile offenders used to mean a stretch in jail. But he argued, in most cases, it did not solve the problem, and often made it worse.

“I don’t care what they did, it’s, ‘Wait a minute, I’m in prison at this time.’ That changes a young person’s attitude, beliefs and approach to the world,” Timberlake contended. “We can do better than that.”

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via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader

December 30, 2022 at 06:22PM

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