Illinois Announces Overhaul of Juvenile Justice System

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Illinois leaders announced a four-year plan to overhaul a juvenile justice system they described as racist and ineffective, and focus more on restorative justice practices, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The plan would restructure the state’s five large juvenile facilities and move detainees to smaller, community-based residential centers, and increase investments in social and intervention services. State officials said the idea is to “reduce the harm of incarceration.” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton announced the 21st Century Illinois Transformation Model in a Chicago neighborhood where two teenagers were shot last month and murder charges were announced against two teenage boys in a gang-related attack.

Rethinking the way juvenile justice is carried out is necessary to end the cycle of violence in such communities, Stratton said, adding that the perpetrators of violence are often victims themselves. “We cannot continue to be a country that criminalizes the children who need the most help,” Stratton said. “We need to help our young people heal, to redirect their energy, to realize their potential and foster their dreams. It is time for a change.” Gov. J.B. Pritzker described the current system as built on “an antiquated theory of juvenile incarceration” that led to the building of, “large, stark, razor-wired, warehouse-like facilities built far away from the homes and families of the children who will eventually return to their communities.” Between 2010 and 2018, 55 percent of kids released by the state’s Department Juvenile Justice ended up back in the system. Under the model, the smaller juvenile facilities would hold no more that 50 detainees and would look more like college dorms.

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