A pilot program aimed at reducing the number of underage offenders sent back to juvenile detention is headed to Illinois communities near St. Louis, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Children’s Home and Aid will have $400,000 from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission to provide reintegration services to youth after they are released from detention. The goal is to help about 75 youths and reduce the number of those adolescents who return to the Department of Juvenile Justice by 25 percent in three years. Now, more than 50 percent of underage offenders who are released juvenile detention center end up coming back. Crimes run the gamut, from retail theft to residential burglary.
“The majority of [youth offenders] are coming from families that have generational dysfunction,” said the agency’s Mark Smith. “Even if they change in the Department of Juvenile Justice, when they come out they go back into that same environment and same family patterns and it’s easy for them to get wrapped back up into that same mind set. If there’s no support or resources for those kids, especially educational or employment counseling, it’s a good recipe for them to go back.” To counter that recipe, each teen exiting detention and entering the program will get a dedicated case manager and therapist who will work with the youth and their family on setting goals and establishing a crime-free path, be that vocational training, enrolling in high school, or earning a GED. Another state program, Redeploy Illinois, provides services like mental health and substance abuse treatment, life skills education and family therapy to at-risk youth. In its first four years Redeploy Illinois kept 382 adolescents out of detention centers statewide.