April 13, 2012 IJJC Facility Closure COGFA Letter

April 13, 2012

The Honorable Jeffrey Schoenberg, Co-Chair
The Honorable Patricia Bellock, Co-Chair
Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability ATTN: Facility Closure 703 Stratton Building
Room 703 Springfield, IL 62706
Re: Department of Juvenile Justice Proposal to Close IYC Joliet

Dear Sen. Schoenberg and Rep. Bellock:

On behalf of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, I submit this letter and accompanying materials outlining the Commission's position on the proposed closure of the IYC Joliet youth prison (hereinafter "IYC Joliet"). 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 - and the April 4, 2012 testimony of Commissioner Julie Biehl (see attached testimony) - the Commission submits that closing a Department of Juvenile Justice facility and shifting resources to community-based services and supervision protects public safety, is fiscally responsible, and improves the outcomes of Illinois youth in conflict with the law.

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.

Research has shown that states that reduced their rates of juvenile confinement reported greater declines in juvenile violent crime (see attached report). Nationally, states are responding to these diminishing crime rates and best practice research by downsizing their juvenile prison systems. Since 2007, 18 states - including Texas and Ohio - have closed more than fifty juvenile prisons with several states proposing more closures this year.

While no member of the Commission takes lightly the potential local economic hardship caused by 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.
  • The Illinois Auditor General estimated that Illinois spent $86,861 to incarcerate one youth for one year, while many community-based programs are proven to reduce recidivism rates cost only $3,300 - $11,000 annually per youth.

In a time of fiscal crisis, Illinois must invest in what works. Closing facilities could improve public safety and save tax-payers $23,971,000.

At the hearing, questions were raised regarding the closure of the State's only "maximum security" prison for juveniles. It is important to note that security level designations are set by the Department director. Director Arthur Bishop has the authority to designate one of the State's seven remaining youth facilities as maximum security.

For the reasons outlined in this letter and enclosures, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission supports the closure of one or more Department of Juvenile Justice facilities and urges you to do what is fiscally sound and in the interest of public safety.


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

CC: Director Arthur Bishop, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice
Dan Long, Executive Director, Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability
Toni Irving, Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor Pat Quinn