2012 Senate Appropriations Letter

April 17, 2012

Senate Appropriations I Committee
Re: Funding for the Department of Juvenile Justice

Dear Committee:

On behalf of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, I submit this testimony regarding funding for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. Under Illinois law, it is the duty of the Commission to advise the General Assembly on matters of effective juvenile delinquency intervention. Consistent with that duty, the Commission submits that the Department of Juvenile Justice should be allowed to close one or more facilities and reinvest those resources into juvenile aftercare in a manner that protects public safety, is fiscally responsible, and improves the outcomes of Illinois youth in conflict with the law.

Adequate funding for aftercare would allow the Department to improve the quality of services available to youth returning to their communities. Appropriate changes to the overall aftercare system, consistent with the recommendations in House Bill 5492, would create mechanisms for youth on parole to be discharged before they are 21, while allowing parole to be extended for those youth that are struggling. These changes would allow parole officers, aftercare specialists, and the parole review board to focus scarce resources on those youth that need more supervision to successfully transition back into their communities. These changes are consistent with best practice models for juvenile reentry.

The national juvenile crime rate is at its lowest since 1980 and Illinois has been no exception to this trend.

  • As of 2009, the Illinois juvenile crime rate has fallen nearly 50 percent since 1994. In one year alone, 2008-09, the juvenile arrests for violent crime decreased 10 percent.
  • The Department of Juvenile Justice has 1,754 beds, and a current population of 1,031 youth.

While no member of the Commission takes lightly the potential local economic hardship caused by decreasing numbers of youth in secure care and potential facilities closures, the Commission notes the growing body of research that shows the positive impacts of community-based services and supervision as opposed to incarceration-based models. A 2011 longitudinal study on serious offenders, supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, found that lengthy commitments in juvenile detention facilities did not reduce recidivism rates for serious offenders and that incarceration actually increased recidivism rates for low-level offenders (see attached report).

  • The study further found that community-based alternatives, as a component of aftercare, reduced recidivism rates among low-level and serious offenders.
  • A benefit cost analysis of Illinois aftercare showed that appropriate investments in the State system would save $145,352,870 over ten years and reduce the number of youth in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice by 54 percent or 6,160 youth.

In a time of fiscal crisis, Illinois must invest in what works.

For the reasons outlined in this letter and enclosures, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission supports the Department of Juvenile Justice's request to close one or more juvenile facilities and expand juvenile aftercare. It also encourages this Committee to invest resources in prevention programs like Redeploy Illinois, a better continuum of behavioral health services inside the Department of Juvenile Justice, and expanded juvenile aftercare statewide.


Hon. George W. Timberlake, Retired
Chairman, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission
Signature on file