Nearly 10 percent of the inmates in Illinois’ juvenile prisons have essentially completed their sentences – in some cases more than a year ago – but are stuck behind bars because they have no place to go, reports the Chicago Tribune. Many youths are being held longer in one of the state’s eight juvenile prisons because officials cannot find an appropriate placement in a transitional living program or other kind of facility. Others are still in prison because officials found the homes of families or friends to be unacceptable, or because families simply refuse to take them back, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Notes in the records tell sad stories. “Youth has no family that will take him,” reads a comment in the case of one downstate boy who was sent to prison for aggravated robbery and was still there two months beyond his scheduled release. “Placement denied 5X w/relatives,” reads the status report on another case. The names of the youths were redacted by state officials because of their age. As of Tuesday, 104 of the 1,107 inmates in the state’s juvenile prisons, or 9.4 percent, were still behind bars even though their expected parole dates had passed. The issue underscores a persistent problem that Department of Juvenile Justice director Kurt Friedenauer has made a priority to tackle: a lack of aftercare for some of the state’s most troubled youths. “Our goal is not to keep kids for the sake of keeping kids,” Friedenauer said. “Our goal is to prepare them for re-entry back to the community and for them to be successful there. But you have to have a (placement) to do that.”