As you prepare to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, the John Howard Association would like to remind you that hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois are not so lucky.
Illinois currently imprisons nearly 49,000 individuals in adult prisons, 1,200 youth in juvenile facilities, and thousands more in county jails and juvenile detention centers. A majority of these men and women are serving time for non-violent offenses.
Of those individuals incarcerated in Illinois 289 are C# prisoners. These are men sentenced in the 1960s and 70s who are eligible for parole, but are usually denied. Another 106 of these inmates were sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed before the age of 18. The United States is the only country in the world that still sentences youth to a lifetime in prison.
It is also important to remember that certain communities are disproportionally affected by our criminal justice system. Approximately 72% of incarcerated individuals, both adult and juvenile, are minorities.
The individuals sitting in cells throughout our state this Thanksgiving are more than just numbers; they are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters. The issue affects all of their families and friends and society as a whole.
Please join the John Howard Association in keeping all of these incarcerated individuals and their families in your thoughts and prayers this Thanksgiving.
Contact us to find out how you can help in our efforts to create a more rehabilitative, effective, and humane corrections system.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently published a report entitled “The Missouri Model: Reinventing the Practice of Rehabilitating Youthful Offenders.” (PDF). Missouri’s long term youth facilities are often seen as the “ideal.” They are run more like group homes and contain no more than 40 youth. The report gives an in depth analysis of Missouri’s model, but below are a few highlights.
All youth in the facilities participate in intense group and individual therapy, education, community service, and are given job training in many fields.The focus in every facility is treatment, not punishment.
Facilities participating in the Performance-based Standards (PbS) project of the Council of Juvenile Correction Administrators average more than 4.5 times as many assaults on youth and 13 times more assault on staff than Missouri facilities per capita. This is despite PbS facilities using mechanical restraints 17 times as often as Missouri and utilizing isolation 200 times as often.
Missouri houses youth in dormitory style rooms, not cells.
Though recidivism rates are measured differently by state, Missouri has a very low recidivism rate when those differences are taken into account.
Missouri makes considerable efforts to divert youth into community based programs, rather than resorting to incarceration. The state also provides guidelines, to be strictly followed, regarding when to violate a youth’s parole, thus avoiding unnecessarily sending youth back to a facility.
Since 2006, Illinois has been making efforts to emulate the Missouri model. We have instituted programs such as Redeploy Illinois, which incentivizes diversion by subsidizing community based treatment for individual counties, but we still have a long way to go. We continue to use some facilities in Illinois to warehouse youth rather than to treat the problems that led to their confinement. We also send youth back to our facilities for minor parole violations. For example, JHA staff recently met a youth at IYC St. Charles who was “violated for police contact.” Until our system realizes the stated mission of IDJJ, to rehabilitate youth and reduce recidivism, the system will fail many troubled youth who, given the proper treatment, could turn their lives around.
Mistake Kids Make