II. Methodology

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission (the "Commission") conducted this Illinois Juvenile Reentry Improvement Study pursuant to the Youth Reentry and Improvement Law of 2009F017 from July 2010 through May 2011.

The General Assembly charged the Commission with making recommendations regarding:

  • due process protections for youth during release decision-making processes including, but not limited to, parole revocation proceedings and release on parole;F018
  • the development of a tracking system to provide quarterly statewide reports on youth released from the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice including lengths of stay in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice prior to release, length of monitoring post-release, pre-release services provided to each youth, violations of release conditions including length of release prior to violation, nature of violation, and intermediate sanctions offered prior to violation;F019 and
  • outcome measures of educational attainment, employment, homelessness, recidivism, and other appropriate measures that can be used to assess the performance of the State of Illinois in operating youth offender reentry programs.F020

The Illinois Juvenile Reentry Improvement Study represented a significant undertaking, in which the Commission amassed an unprecedented amount of data and insight into the juvenile release, reentry, and revocation systems.

Commissioners' Observations of Prisoner Review Board Hearings

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board ("PRB") is a state agency whose responsibilities include conducting hearings related to both adult and juvenile parole. The PRB determines when a youth is released from incarceration and placed onto parole, the youth's conditions of parole, and when a youth's parole ought to be revoked for violating a condition of parole. The PRB makes these decisions at parole grant hearings and parole revocation hearings.

Observing Prisoner Review Board hearings constituted one substantial aspect of the Commission's data collection. In total, the Commission observed 237 PRB hearings - 123 parole hearings, 101 revocation hearings, and 13 annual review hearings - at all 8 Illinois Youth Center ("IYC") facilities between July and December of 2010. PRB hearings have never before been subject to public review. The observation process was not intended as a comprehensive quantitative study of Prisoner Review Board decisions. Rather, the observation process enabled the Commission to amass substantial firsthand qualitative knowledge of the PRB system, previously unavailable to those outside the PRB itself, in order to make the statutorily mandated recommendations.

The Commission developed standardized forms for the hearing observations.F021 In creating the observation forms, the Commission was cognizant of tracking the constitutional rights applicable to youth at parole and revocation hearings, including, among other things, the right to counselF022 at preliminary and revocation hearings and the right to present and examine evidence. Commissioners attended multiple trainings prior to their observations to ensure consistency in the observations and data gathering process.

Review of Revoked Youths' Files

The Commission reviewed the files of all youth whose parole was revoked between December 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010. In total, the Commission reviewed 386 youths' files - 40 girls and 346 boys. As with the PRB observations, the Commission's file review was not intended as a systematic quantitative study. Rather, the Juvenile Justice Commission reviewed the files of youth in order to accumulate a substantial qualitative understanding of the reentry and revocation experience for juvenile offenders.F023

The Commission reviewed both the "master file" and "AMS report" for each of the 386 youth. The Department of Juvenile Justice creates a master file for each youth spanning the entirety of their involvement with the state; the master file is stored at the Illinois Youth Centers ("IYC") facility where the youth is currently incarcerated or was most recently incarcerated.F024 The Automated Management Service (AMS) parole records track each interaction a parole agent has with a youth or an individual in the youth's life, including teachers and family members.F025

The Commission collected the following data from the master files and AMS report:

  • whether the youth was revoked for a technical parole violation;
  • type of parole violation;
  • length of time the youth spent on parole prior to the revocation;
  • nature of the committing offense that served as the basis for the original commitment;
  • demographic information including age, race,F026 sex, and county of the underlying offense;
  • conduct leading to revocation;
  • information the Department of Juvenile Justice had available to it upon the youth's initial incarceration, including:
    • any prior mental health treatment,
    • hospitalizations,
    • residential placements, and
    • family history;
  • assessments conducted by DJJ upon the youth's initial incarceration;
  • services recommended for the youth by DJJ;
  • services documented as actually received by the youth while incarcerated;
  • conditions of parole mandated by the Prisoner Review Board upon the youth's most recent release from incarceration;
  • number of face-to-face and phone contacts a youth had with his or her parole agent while in the community;
  • number of contacts the parole agent had with the youth's family; and
  • number of times a parole agent referred or "linked" a youth to community based treatment or services.

As with the parole hearing observation forms, the Commission developed a data collection form to gather information from both the DJJ master file and AMS parole record.F027 The file review forms were subject to a number of revisions and trials to ensure that the Commission collected the most relevant, accurate, and useful information possible. The Commission's team was trained to ensure consistency in information collection from both the master files and AMS parole records.

The file review process allowed the Commission to answer the statute's request for data specific information about revoked youth - not currently available through any state data systemF028 - and to track the fit and appropriateness of mandated services for youth during the reentry process. In reviewing the DJJ master files and AMS parole records, the Commission sought to understand the types of information available to DJJ upon a youth's initial incarceration; how that information is used, supplemented, and transferred to different system actors (including the Illinois Prisoner Review Board and the DOC Parole Division); and the appropriateness of how that information is used to mandate services while youth are incarcerated and on parole.

Observation of "Parole School" Sessions and Libraries at Youth Facilities

Before a youth appears at a Prisoner Review Board parole hearing, he or she will attend DJJ's "parole school" at the IYC facility where he/she is incarcerated. Parole school is a youth's best opportunity to learn about his or her rights and responsibilities while on parole and at a potential future parole revocation hearing. In general, parole school is meant to prepare youth to appear at a parole hearing as well as to prepare youth to be released on parole. Parole school occurs between one and four weeks before a youth is presented to the Prisoner Review Board, depending on the facility. The Commission observed parole school at six of the eight Illinois Youth Centers.F029 The Commission also observed the legal materials available to youth at seven of the eight Illinois Youth Center libraries.

Information from the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Prisoner Review Board, and Department of Corrections Parole Division

The Commission worked in collaboration with the DJJ-DCFS Aftercare Merger Workgroup and the Juvenile Reentry Workgroup of the Governor's Collaborative on Reentry in order to avoid duplication of efforts and to ensure the most comprehensive study possible. The Aftercare Merger Workgroup sent questionnaires to both the Prisoner Review Board and the Department of Juvenile Justice to better understand their policies and practices involving the release decision.F030

Similarly, the Commission requested information from the Department of Corrections Parole Division regarding its juvenile parole policies and practices. The Parole Division provided the Commission with a substantial body of material, including the Parole Division's system of graduated sanctions and caseload breakdown for parole agents.

The Commission met with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Center for Prevention Research and Development at the University of Illinois, and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to discuss the information and data available to the Department of Juvenile Justice at each juncture of a youth's incarceration and parole. The Commission also met with the Department of Corrections Parole Division Public Service Administrator to discuss the two relevant software systems: Juvenile Tracking System (JTS) and AMS.F031

Commission Presentation of Illinois Juvenile Reentry Improvement Initiative

The Commission presented its progress on the reentry study on February 9, 2011 and on April 8, 2011, to executive staff from:

  • the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice;
  • the Illinois Prisoner Review Board;
  • the Illinois Department of Corrections Parole Division;
  • the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority;
  • the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Advisory Board;
  • the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services;
  • the Illinois Department of Human Services;
  • the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ("AFSCME");
  • the Governor's office;
  • the Center for Prevention Research and Development; and
  • Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

The presentations provided the Commission with an opportunity to present its understanding of the juvenile post-dispositional system based on its PRB observations, file review, and other information gathering and research. The presentations also provided a forum for state actors to comment on the Commission's understanding of the system, clarify areas of uncertainty, and voice their opinions on areas of systemic dysfunction.

At the meeting on February 9, 2011, the Commission also facilitated a discussion between DJJ and the Parole Division to discuss current information sharing practices among relevant state agencies.


  1. 20 ILCS 505/17a-5(5.1).
    Return to reference 17.
  2. 20 ILCS 505/17a-5(5.1)(C).
    Return to reference 18.
  3. 20 ILCS 505/17a-5(5.1)(A).
    Return to reference 19.
  4. 20 ILCS 505/17a-5(5.1)(B).
    Return to reference 20.
  5. See Appendix C for Hearing Observation Forms.
    Return to reference 21.
  6. For an in-depth discussion of juvenile right to counsel at parole hearings, see Appendix K.
    Return to reference 22.
  7. Notably, the Commission was not tasked by the General Assembly with comparing the experience of revoked youth with those youth who successfully reintegrated into the community, further indication that the Commission's reentry study was not meant to serve as a comprehensive system analysis, but instead, to allow the Commission to promulgate informed recommendations rooted in an understanding of the post-dispositional juvenile justice system.
    Return to reference 23.
  8. A list of the documents and information included in a Master File is attached as Appendix D.
    Return to reference 24.
  9. AMS is a state contractor of the Illinois Department of Corrections responsible for the parole information system. Both juvenile and adult parolees call into AMS at required times. Parole agents enter information into the AMS data system. A redacted excerpt from an AMS parole record is included in Appendix E.
    Return to reference 25.
  10. The Department of Juvenile Justice records youth as White, Black, Hispanic, or Other. Therefore the Commission was unable to collect accurate information on biracial youth or youth who are both Black and Hispanic.
    Return to reference 26.
  11. See Appendix F for a sample file review form.
    Return to reference 27.
  12. See Appendix A for the statutorily mandated data regarding revoked youth.
    Return to reference 28.
  13. The Commission observed parole school at Joliet, Chicago, St. Charles, Warrenville, Harrisburg, and Pere Marquette. The Commission did not observe parole school at Murphysboro. Kewanee holds individual pre-release sessions for each youth rather than conducting parole school.
    Return to reference 29.
  14. See Appendix G for the Department of Juvenile Justice and Prisoner Review Board Responses to Questionnaires Submitted by the DCFS-DJJ Aftercare Merger Workgroup, June 14, 2010.
    Return to reference 30.
  15. JTS is primarily used by staff within DJJ facilities, while AMS is used exclusively by parole agents. JTS is a significantly older technology, while AMS is operated by a private contractor with the Department of Corrections. The two systems are discussed in greater detail in Section VI.
    Return to reference 31.