Moving Beyond Transition: Ten Findings and Recommendations on the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice

In Moving Beyond Transition, the John Howard Association, Illinois' only non-partisan prison watchdog, offers 10 findings and recommendations based on our monitoring of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice in 2012-13.

Our findings include the following:

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  • In a 2012 report, JHA found chronically low mental health staffing levels at IYC-Kewanee, the only IDJJ facility designated to provide intensive mental health treatment. Since JHA’s 2012 report was published, IDJJ has increased Kewanee’s mental health staffing levels and moved youth with lower security risks and less intensive treatment needs to a newly-created mental health special treatment cottage at IYC-St. Charles.

  • While IDJJ has increased its collection of data on programs and operations, much of this data is still not readily available to stakeholders and public. This kind of transparency is essential to enable stakeholders and the public to independently evaluate IDJJ’s performance, advocate for necessary improvements, and build broad support for the agency and its mission.

  • In 2012, IDJJ strengthened oversight of its operations by requiring greater accountability from independent service providers, and also working with outside evaluators to assess program outcomes.

  • Notwithstanding ongoing challenges, IDJJ has made progress in the area of juvenile parole and reentry. IDJJ now has the authority to approve alternative host site placements for youth awaiting release on parole, and the agency continues to expand its Aftercare Program to enhance treatment, services, and reentry outcomes for youth on parole.

  • While JHA continues to receive reports from youth of confinement being misused and overused at some facilities, we were encouraged by evidence of staff using communication and de-escalation techniques in lieu of solitary confinement to punish disruptive youth. Based on a growing body of research and a well established body of law and best practices, JHA advocates that IDJJ allow confinement to be used only for security purposes when youth are physically out of control and/or present an immediate threat to physical safety—and only for the limited duration that youth pose an imminent threat of harm.

  • Consistent with juvenile justice systems nationwide, JHA found evidence that minority youth of color in IDJJ are much less likely to be identified as having mental health needs and provided with services than white youth in the system.

Allie Kelly2013