Attorneys to Defend Growing Number of Youth Charged in Harrisburg

After a ProPublica story uncovered that youth detained at the Harrisburg facility were given adult prison sentences for offenses previously addressed internally, a group of attorneys plan to represent those youth charged with assaulting staff at the southern Illinois youth prison. The Illinois Bar Foundation awarded the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy $10,000 to address the high volume of cases at Harrisburg, where more youth have been charged than the other four state youth prisons combined in 2016 and 2017. Reform measures at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, such as the ban on the use of solitary confinement, could be correlated with the increase in criminal charges of incarcerated youth initiated by staffers who do not have the same disciplinary tools at their disposal. The Department is currently training staff on alternatives to solitary confinement. “Not only is the facility not supporting the children in rehabilitating them, they’re actually further sucking them into what is already an extremely broken system,” Patrick Keenan-Devlin, executive director of the nonprofit Moran Center, said.