Juvenile Justice Councils (JJC)
Local juvenile justice councils implement programs, policies and practices that improve the effectiveness of local juvenile justice systems, reduce unnecessary juvenile justice system involvement and/or analyze and reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities (R.E.D.) in each council's local system. Because this model of local governance, collaboration and data-driven decision-making has proven effective, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and the Department of Human Services has allocated funding to support local juvenile justice councils and the development of data-driven, collaborative local juvenile justice plans which guide future system improvement efforts.
The Illinois Juvenile Court Act provides that each county or group of counties may establish a local juvenile justice council [705 ILCS 405/6-12]. The purpose of this council, according to the Act, is "to provide a forum for the development of a community based interagency assessment of the local juvenile justice system, to develop a county juvenile justice plan for the prevention of juvenile delinquency, and to make recommendations to the county board, or county boards, for more effectively utilizing existing community resources in dealing with juveniles who are found to be involved in crime, or who are truant or have been suspended or expelled from school." Through juvenile justice councils, the Act prescribes a response to juveniles in conflict with the law that is comprehensive, driven by data and analysis, and collaborative across all systems that touch these youth.
As embodied in the Juvenile Court Act, Juvenile Justice Councils provide a structure to ensure that local jurisdictions respond to youth in conflict with the law in a manner which is data-driven, strategic, and focused on serving youth, families and communities in the most effective ways possible. Unfortunately, very few jurisdictions in Illinois have developed councils that operate in the manner envisioned in the Act. In some communities, youth become involved in the juvenile justice system unnecessarily because alternatives do not exist or are not embedded within the system decision-making process. Because the needs and resources are different in each community in Illinois, a one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to be very effective.
Local councils are in the best position to craft solutions that meet the local community's needs and take into account local resources. Empowering and supporting local juvenile justice councils can also stem the tide of racial and ethnic disparity in the juvenile justice system at the front door and help ensure that no youth enters the juvenile justice system unnecessarily. Such local ownership is the best way to ensure more effective long-term programming and sustained systemic change. This, in turn, will reduce the costs associated with incarcerating youth in correctional facilities, reduce rates of recidivism, reduce the number of crime victims, and ultimately create safer communities in Illinois.
The goal of the Juvenile Justice Councils program is to support local juvenile justice councils in developing and implementing programs, policies and practices which:
- Ensure that youth do not enter Illinois' juvenile justice system unnecessarily;
- Ensure that youth who do enter the juvenile justice system receive developmentally appropriate, individualized support and services;
- Ensure that youth leave the justice system with positive outcomes, which in turn enhance public safety;
- Ensure that Illinois maintains full compliance with the core requirements of the federal JJDP Act; and
- Ensure that racial and ethnic disparities are examined and reduced at all phases of the justice system.