The Commission is pleased to announce that the Pritzker administration appointed nine-year IJJC Commissioner Rick Velasquez to serve as its new Chair following his June 2019 retirement as CEO of Youth Outreach Services (YOS). Mr. Velasquez succeeds Judge George Timberlake, who served as Commission Chair for nine years.
Mr. Velasquez’s career has been committed to seeking community-based strategies to prevention and intervention, while also working to reform the overall juvenile justice system. Below are some highlights:
- As a part of the task force that created the Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services (CCBYS) system, Mr. Velasquez helped to solidify the first state-wide program in Illinois to divert thousands of youth from the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
- He co-chaired the “Foster Kids Are Our Kids” statewide campaign to strengthen the recruitment and training of foster homes in Illinois.
- In 2013, Mr. Velasquez helped found the Conscience Community Network (CCN) to ensure comprehensive, coordinated service delivery to dually involved youth in Illinois.
- Under Mr. Velasquez’s leadership, YOS became a trailblazer in the human service sector, from providing substance abuse treatment services to youth incarcerated in the Illinois youth correctional facilities, to innovating service delivery and advocacy for youth with problematic sexual behavior.
- As a consultant to the Vera Institute of Justice, Mr. Velasquez helped demonstrate the effectiveness of community-based strategies to jurisdictions in other states.
- In 2006, Mr. Velasquez was presented with the Natalie S. Bimel Award from the Anne E. Casey Foundation for Outstanding Contributions to Juvenile Detention Reform by a Community Leader for his work on the Cook County Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative.
- In 2010, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative, awarded Mr. Velasquez with the Champions for Change in System Reform in Juvenile Justice.
The Commission looks forward to Mr. Velasquez continuing these reform efforts to improve youth care in Illinois through his role as the Chair. When asked about his plans as Chair, Mr. Velasquez hopes to partner with the Governor’s office and the Chicago Mayor’s office on new Commission initiatives.
Stay tuned to see what is next for the Commission!
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