Illinois Youth Center - Pere Marquette
Illinois Youth Center - Pere Marquette
Illinois Youth Center-Pere Marquette is a minimum-security step-down facility for male youth located in southern Illinois (about an hour outside of St. Louis).
The John Howard Association (JHA) conducted a full monitoring visit of Illinois Youth Center (IYC)-Pere Marquette (Pere Marquette) on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018. As one of the smaller of facilities run by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ), IYC-Pere Marquette has the staff and resource capacity to provide their youth with timely, comprehensive, and individualized services.
IYC-Pere Marquette exemplifies the benefits of a low-security, smaller facility on the rehabilitation of justice-involved youth. Pere Marquette keeps youth engaged in programming and activities throughout the day, leaving little idle time in the youth’s cells. Programming ranges from vocational training, both inside and outside the facility, monthly activities based on a central theme, and visits to outside venues, among other programs.
In addition to keeping youth active and engaged throughout the day, IYC-Pere Marquette focuses on rewarding positive youth behavior and in preventing disruptions in the facility. In addition to the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program, IYC-Pere Marquette has developed additional incentives to motivate youth to engage in positive behavior in the institution. Youth are offered special meals, excursions, as well as other privileges for continued good behavior in the facility. Youth are also provided a place and opportunity to express their concerns and work on solutions through a Youth Council, a youth-led meeting held weekly involving all staff and youth in the facility. To prevent youth disruptions, administrators at Pere Marquette prioritize positive youth-staff interactions, and support staff in their use of mediations to de-escalate situations before youth become disruptive.
IYC-Pere Marquette is a facility where youth are transferred based on good behavior at their originating institutions. As a result, the population of IYC-Pere Marquette does not accurately represent the youth population in IDJJ as a whole, and the youth housed there are notably better behaved and well suited to a less secure facility whose priority is in providing rehabilitation through off-site, community-based programs prior to release. Pere Marquette’s foci on robust programming, constructive youth-staff interactions, and reinforcing positive youth behavior serve as excellent examples for other youth facilities which struggle to provide a truly rehabilitative environment for their youth. It also exemplifies the proven benefits of housing youth in small, well-staffed facilities which allow for more customized, individualized treatment and for youth to develop trusting, therapeutic, one-on-one relationships with staff that are critical to rehabilitation.
Pere Marquette is described as an “open campus” facility, dedicated to reintegrating youth back into the community. Some youth transfer to Pere Marquette from a special unit at IYC-Harrisburg (Harrisburg) while others come straight to the facility from intake. Only youth who are minimum security, low escape risk, and are not in custody for a sex offense or murder are eligible to be designated to Pere Marquette. Youth who are at Pere Marquette and engage in violent behavior or receive multiple serious disciplinary tickets will be sent to Harrisburg, although staff stated this rarely occurs. At the time of JHA’s 2013 visit, Pere Marquette operated with 21 of 24 authorized Juvenile Justice Specialists and six Juvenile Justice Supervisors. The facility had not had a psychologist on staff for 17 months and administrators noted that the lengthy state hiring process was a barrier to filling positions. However, administrators noted during this period there were mental health services available onsite through the contractual provider, Wells Center.
Administrators stated that Pere Marquette had a recidivism rate of 38.6%, much lower than the 86% rate reported across all IDJJ facilities. Part of the facility’s success may be attributable to the fact that Pere Marquette staff treat youth differently and work with youth to “lose the prison mentality” learned in prior institutional settings in order to focus on their futures. Reflecting Pere Marquette’s staff’s constructive and respectful attitudes towards them, most youth at the facility were positive and relaxed. JHA was pleased to even hear from youth that they enjoyed the food at the facility. Pere Marquette seems to do a better job preparing youth for reentry than other IDJJ facilities, underscoring the fact that small, non-institutional models of custodial intervention are a more effective way to help youth move forward productively when they return home. An added benefit of smaller facilities is that research indicates that smaller facilities provide safer living environments for youth.