Core Value: Community Safety

Adults and youth deserve to be and to feel safe in their communities. An effective juvenile justice system utilizes policies and programs which are demonstrated to improve long-term community safety, including reduced criminal offending.

Including detention and incarceration — has not been demonstrated to produce lasting reductions in risk or recidivism (Latessa, et al)

  • Policy-makers and practitioners cannot rely upon punishment, confinement or sanctions to produce long-term public safety gains. Incarceration of youth – particularly low-risk youth – is a short term, costly, disruptive and counter-productive approach to youth crime. In contrast, use of evidence-based strategies teach youth new ways of thinking and new skills have been demonstrated to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
  • Illinois must shift scarce resources from counter-productive reliance on punishment and toward policy and programming demonstrated to be effective in reducing juvenile offending and the flow of youth into the adult criminal justice system.

Emerging research (Pathways to Desistance) indicates that community-based behavioral health treatment (including substance abuse, trauma and mental health treatment for youth with these needs) is particularly effective in helping youth refrain from future offending and increasing public safety.

  • Especially in times of fiscal crisis, Illinois stakeholders must maintain and shore up the network of community-based behavioral health services across the state.
  • Stakeholders must ensure that all youth and families –regardless of race, ethnicity, economic status or geographic location – have access to these critical resources.

The vast majority of youth who are incarcerated will return to their communities. Developmentally appropriate, evidence-based services are essential to rehabilitate and incarcerated youth and produce long-term reduced risk for recidivism.

  • The state has an obligation to provide safe and humane conditions for the youth in its custody.
  • Developmentally appropriate, evidence-based services must be available and targeted to meet individual youth needs, to enable youth to leave costly confinement quickly, to return successfully to their communities and to refrain from reoffending. Cognitive, skills-based approaches — which recognize that punishment alone does not change behavior and instead teach youth new skills – can significantly reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.

Public safety is compromised when youth return to their communities without access to the services, supervision and support needed to reduce recidivism and enhance positive outcomes. Developmentally appropriate, evidence-based services are essential to enable youth to leave costly facilities more quickly and return safely to their communities, with increased skills and reduced recidivism risk.

  • Effective aftercare planning is essential to prepare youth to leave costly institutional placements quickly and to return to their communities safely and to achieve positive outcomes and reduced recidivism.
  • Release decisions must be fair, rational, individualized and consistent with due process considerations. Youth should be released from secure custody and returned to their communities as quickly as possible, consistent with youth needs, behavior and community safety.
  • An effective aftercare system utilizes specialized staff, caseloads and culturally-competent community-based services and strategies intentionally designed to enhance youth outcomes and protect public safety. Individualized planning, case management, and supervision by well-trained, skilled juvenile specialists are key components of model aftercare planning. Successful community reentry requires meaningful access to affordable, culturally-competent, evidence-based services which engage and support families, whenever possible. Due process rights of youth must be protected when release / recommitment decisions are made.