Report: Too many juveniles go back to prison

From: NorthWest Herald
Dec 25, 2011
By SARAH SUTSCHEK

More than half of young offenders in Illinois’ youth prisons are back within three years of their release, according to a new report.

The system intended to help imprisoned juveniles get back into their communities for more rehabilitation is broken, but not beyond repair, according to the study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

During a six-month period, 54 percent of the 386 youths whose parole was revoked were sent back to prison for technicalities such as truancy and curfew violations.

Other findings include the fact that youths are systematically deprived of their constitutional rights in decisions regarding parole revocations.

The report recommends that judges preside over parole revocation hearings, rather than prisoner review boards.

Young offenders also typically stay on parole until their 21st birthdays, increasing the likelihood of returning to custody. The report recommends that the length of parole should be limited. Plus, parole officers handle both adults and youth with caseloads averaging 100, but have no special training for dealing with young people. Rarely do they refer young parolees to programs that could help them with jobs, substance abuse or mental health issues.

“You have officers who are overworked and who don’t have adequate training,” said commission chairman George Timberlake, retired chief justice of the 2nd Circuit Court. “It’s easy to say, ‘It’s a violation. I’m writing it up,’ and the kid goes back inside the prison.”

Statewide, there are more than 1,000 young people in custody in eight prisons with an additional 1,600 on parole.

Locally, between seven to 12 kids are sent to juvenile prisons from McHenry County each year, said James J. Edwards, who heads the juvenile division of Court Services. The average number of juveniles in detention centers also is low, hovering around five or six youths a day.

“When you look at a county our size, historically we have a low percentage of kids who ever end up in the Department of Juvenile Justice,” said Phil Dailing, director of Court Services. “We don’t contribute a lot to this problem.”

The burden is on county officials, when appropriate, to find alternatives rather than send young people to prison, Dailing said.

Read the rest here.

Further reading:

The Report of the IL Juvenile Justice Commission (PDF)

Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission: Broken Parole System Traps Young Offenders (Huffington Post, 14 dec 2011)

Teen Suicides expose safety breakdowns

From: Huffington Post

Main story in : Chicago Tribune:

May 25, 2010

TRIBUNE WATCHDOG: Juvenile justice

Suicides expose safety breakdowns
Deaths raise questions about juvenile system’s ability to protect teens

About this report
The Tribune reported these stories by reviewing thousands of pages of court papers, prison records, medical and psychiatric records, and other documents, as well as conducting dozens of interviews. The newspaper obtained many documents through the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Other documents, including confidential prison and mental health records, were obtained with the cooperation of inmates’ family members, who shared documents they had obtained and made open records requests to the Department of Juvenile Justice. The reporters petitioned Cook County Juvenile Court for records involving Jamal Miller.

Daniels: Reports Of Juvenile Prison Abuse ‘Out Of Date’

May 20, 2010

The governor on Thursday downplayed a scathing federal report calling on Indiana to address widespread abuses within its juvenile correction facilities.

A Jan. 29 letter and report from U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to Gov. Mitch Daniels details troubles within the former Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility, including a mentally ill inmate left dirty and pulling out her hair and male guards having sex with and performing strip searches on young female inmates, 6News’ Joanna Massee reported.

The letter follows a civil rights investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008 that documented inadequate abuse investigations, excessive use of force and isolation, inadequate mental health care and inadequate special education services. The investigation into allegations of abuse began in 2004.

Daniels initially declined to comment on the report, but when asked about the issue at a jobs announcement on Thursday, he told Massee the report was “hopelessly out of date.”

“The problems there (the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility) — which were very severe and obviously needed attention — are many years old,” Daniels said. “They’re doing their job and tidying up what is really a six- or eight-year-old inquiry.

“When the report was originally released, Daniels volunteered to make improvements at all the facilities and to provide reports resulting from a partnership with the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, an agency charged with monitoring the expected improvements.

The Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility was closed in 2009, and female inmates were moved to the new Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility.

A statement from the Indiana Department of Correction called it “a much different facility than its predecessor in Indianapolis,” but a former employee told 6News that conditions for inmates worsened after the move.

“I do not think any child inside Madison Juvenile is safe,” the former employee, who did not want to be identified, told Massee.

6News was not allowed inside the Madison facility. 

More: Share your experiences with the state’s juvenile justice system

State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, who sits on the Senate Corrections Committee, said he is concerned about the allegations of abuse at the state’s juvenile correction facilities.

“When we have people in our custody, under our care, we have a responsibility and a duty, under our constitution, to take care of their wellbeing,” he said.

Delph said that the Department of Correction has not brought any issues involving juvenile justice to his attention. He said he has requested a meeting with the agency.

Correction Commissioner Edwin Buss declined requests to be interviewed.

Link to Article Here