Spurred by an Illinois recidivism rate of 50 percent and research showing clear differences between the ways adolescents and adults cope with jail time, Illinois is rethinking its approach to juvenile justice, says the Christian Science Monitor. It is leading a wave of new policy approaches nationwide that emphasize rehabilitation and intervention programs over simple punishment and incarceration for youths, or the “scaring them straight” strategies favored by many during the 1990s crime waves.
The state’s pilot programs and new Juvenile Justice Department were discussed in a MacArthur Foundation conference on juvenile justice reform this week, a few days after the Department of Justice released new statistics showing that a record 7 million Americans, or 1 in 32 adults, is now in prison or on parole. Other states, including Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington have been experimenting with similar programs. MacArthur has invested nearly $100 million in state juvenile justice reform, particularly in programs that focus on alternatives to secure detention centers, which critics say can turn a minor delinquent into a more hardened criminal. In Illinois, advocates are hoping that the new Department of Juvenile Justice – separate from the Department of Corrections – will help change a culture that gave little thought to rehabilitation.