This report is submitted in accordance with the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s statutory responsibility to submit an annual report to the Governor and General Assembly.
This report highlights the State’s accomplishments in 2011 and 2012, the most urgent challenges relative to juvenile justice in Illinois, and the Commission’s recommendations for addressing those issues.
The Illinois juvenile justice system is complex and comprehensive, spanning from law enforcement’s first contact with a young person to the “deep end” of the system, including the state’s juvenile prisons and aftercare programs. This system is composed of hundreds of municipalities and counties – each with its own law enforcement agencies – as well as State Police; a court system that includes 23 judicial circuits; detention facilities, probation departments, elected state’s attorneys, public defenders and private attorneys from 102 counties; Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice prisons housing fewer than 1,000 youth and employing aftercare specialists to assist with their return to their home communities; and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, which sets conditions of release for juveniles.
The system also is impacted by the work of the state’s public and private schools; neighborhood- based organizations; state agencies delivering services to families in need; and dozens of private social service organizations that provide crisis intervention, counseling, and other aid.
There is no single person or agency responsible for what happens or doesn’t happen in the juvenile justice system. It is this complicated and critical network of individuals and agencies comprising the “juvenile justice system” which the Commission is charged to analyze, support, and improve.
The membership of the Commission includes representatives of many of the individual components of the juvenile justice system (see membership list on page 7) as well as community members, youth advocates, and policy experts. The Commission administers the state’s federal juvenile justice funding and serves as an advisor to those who set and carry out policy in Illinois state government.
The Commission’s measures of an effective juvenile justice system are:
- Young people and families do not enter the juvenile justice system unnecessarily and instead receive community-based support and services for mental health, substance abuse, education, trauma or other needs and have meaningful opportunities for positive development and well-being;
- Young people and families who do enter the juvenile justice system receive individualized developmentally-appropriate, rehabilitative services which address their underlying risks and needs as well as build on positive assets and strengths and enhance public safety; and
- Young people and families leave the juvenile justice system on a path toward positive life outcomes.
With those three goals in mind, Illinois can maximize the resources devoted to the system; improve public safety; and – most important – change the behavior of youth before they are locked into an unknown but possibly destructive future of violence, prison, and an early death.