Illinois’ system for handling young criminals came under searing criticism Tuesday by lawmakers, who said the agency has been mismanaged since it was formed in 2006, reports the Southern Illinoisan. In a review of an audit covering the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s first two years, members of a legislative panel raised questions about the cost of treating youthful offenders, as well as the agency’s apparent failure to hire guards despite having the money to do so. One state senator cited as “bizarre” the nearly $200,000 per year it costs to incarcerate each of the 19 minors at a juvenile prison near Alton.
Agency chief Kurt Friedenauer blamed the problems on a system imposed under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich that forced the department to share many of its administrative duties with the Illinois Department of Corrections, which formerly managed the state’s juvenile prisons. The audit found that nearly $3 million set aside in the budget to hire guards went virtually unused in 2007 and 2008 because of a hiring freeze imposed by Blagojevich.