Last Youth Moved Out of IYC-Murphysboro

From The Southern Illinoisians:

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn’s push to close the youth prison in Murphysboro took another step forward this week when the last group of inmates was moved out of the 15-year-old lock-up.

Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which operated the facility, confirmed the final transfers Wednesday, but could not provide further details.

Although built to hold more than 150 inmates, the facility has been home to just a handful of youthful offenders in recent months while the governor’s closure push was under way.

The move is part of an effort by the Chicago Democrat to shutter dozens of large and small state facilities in downstate Illinois to save an estimated $57 million. He wants to use the money to prop up other state programs that were facing cuts in the budget approved by lawmakers in May.

The now-empty facility — designated as a minimum-security youth prison — represents the first success Quinn has had in carrying out his controversial plan. Other facilities facing an end include the state’s “supermax” prison in Tamms, the all-female Dwight Correctional Center and facilities for developmentally disabled residents in Jacksonville and Centralia.

The apparent demise of IYC Murphysboro comes a day after an alliance of Republican and Democratic senators and representatives called on their colleagues to override the governor’s veto of money for the correctional facilities when lawmakers reconvene in November.

It remains unclear what might happen if the General Assembly overrides the governor’s decision. Quinn has argued that the population of juveniles in prison is dropping, allowing the state to close not only Murphysboro, but the maximum-security youth facility in Joliet.

Advocacy groups say the state should move away from incarceration of troubled youth and put the savings into other programs.

The youth center in Jackson County once employed as many as 135 employees. This week, the total staff count was down to 55.

Some of the workers were given the choice of relocating to other youth prisons, including the Harrisburg center 45 miles to the east. A crew of remaining workers was given the job of preparing the facility to be mothballed.


Creative Resistance

As we prepare for the upcoming Creative Resistance art exhibit sponsored by Project Nia, we would encourage you to check out the work of Kara Walker to help understand the intersection of art, race, gender and violence.

Here is a link to Walk discussing some of her own, fascinating work:

Please also consider attending the Create Resistance exhibit:

Juvenile Justice Initiative’s Press Release on COGFA’s Vote on Closing IYC-Joliet

May 1, 2012

Juvenile Justice Initiative Responds to Legislative Panel’s Advice to Stop Consolidation of State’s Expensive Youth Prison System

CHICAGO — Elizabeth Clarke, President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, released the following statement in response to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s advisory opinion and tied 5-5 vote rejecting Gov. Quinn’s decision to close the state’s youth prison in Joliet.

Even though the state’s costly youth prison system has more than 700 empty beds and the state’s unbalanced budget is bright red, this Commission’s advice is to spend more money the state doesn’t have on a wasteful, inefficient system. Sen. Matt Murphy was correct when he noted that the state cannot continue to support eight separate juvenile prisons for a population that is rapidly decreasing (now under 990 from about 1,600 seven years ago). Illinois must join with the rest of the nation, where 18 states have closed more than 50 juvenile prisons since 2007 – based on the falling juvenile crime rate, and the increased awareness that less costly community based alternatives are far
more effective at deterring youth crime.

This legislative commission’s action is advisory only, and now Gov. Quinn should proceed with closing the youth prisons in Joliet and Murphysboro); and commit to additional consolidation in the coming fiscal year.

This recommendation against closure ignores the fact that the state’s juvenile prison population has dropped dramatically from 1,603 in FY 05 to 990 in FY 12. In the last five years, the annual cost of incarcerating youth has jumped from $71,000 to more than $92,000 per youth. If this Commission has its way, those costs will go higher and higher. The cost at Murphysboro – where about two-thirds of the prison is empty — is more than $142,000 per youth.

The state’s eight youth prisons could be consolidated into a 4-prison system and still house all of the juveniles in prison today. The lowered overhead would produce millions in cost savings that could help rehabilitate youth in their communities at much lower cost and with greater success.

Ironically, the Commission’s recommendation was made despite a recent national poll showing that 89 percent of the public strongly favors rehabilitation and treatment approaches, such as counseling, education, treatment, restitution, and community service. The public recognizes that imprisoning youth far away from their families doesn’t work. It doesn’t reduce future offending. It doesn’t make our communities safer. It doesn’t put youth on a path toward becoming contributing members of our society. Unfortunately, the Commission ignored these facts and went in the opposite direction. The Juvenile Justice Initiative applauds those Commission members who stood up for fiscal common sense and for sound investment in rehabilitation of our youth. We thank Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, who is Commission co-chair; Sen. Matt Murphy, Sen. Donne Trotter and Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Rep. Mike Tryon, for their votes for the resolution to close Joliet Youth Center.


Nick Locke and I (Caelyn Randall) are on Day 4 of our Hunger Strike.

As we starve our bodies, we proclaim that we must starve the Prison Industrial Complex of resources and its metaphorical consumption of young people.

Thus far we have spread the word about the need to close illinois youth prisons to hundreds of people and have raised around $2000 for the Close Illinois Youth Prisons Campaign. 

We have a few upcoming events that we will let you know about including a one-day hunger strike & rally for everyone to participate in. In the meantime, spread the word!

Starve the P.I.C

Research consistently suggests that youth incarceration does not in fact “lower” crime and is not cost-effective. In fact, incarceration mainly insures that those young people who are impacted will end up in the adult criminal legal system. Youth who commit crimes need alternatives to incarceration in community settings; they should not be imprisoned. It now costs an average of $90,000 a year to incarcerate one juvenile in Illinois. Can’t we think of something better and less destructive to do with this money? Help us urge the Illinois General Assembly to close the Youth Prisons at Murphysboro and Joliet!

Diverting money from these prisons provides necessary funds for more effective community based alternatives that young people desperately need. It also frees up much needed funds for our public school system. In response to the broken P.I.C. two Loyola University Chicago students working alongside Project NIA will stand in solidarity with imprisoned juveniles through a STARVE THE P.I.C. hunger strike beginning April 8th. This hunger strike will expose the injustice of the P.I.C. and raise awareness for Project NIA, who works to create sustainable community based alternatives instead of prison time for juveniles. Over $500 dollars have been raised through individual donations for Project NIA’s Starve the P.I.C. initiative thus far and additionally $50 will be earned per day of the hunger strike.

All proceeds will be donated to Project NIA to help fund our work to encourage community based alternatives for juveniles trapped in this unjust and costly criminal (in)justice system. While we have made some headway, Project NIA needs your help. Every dollar will support our advocacy work to develop alternatives to incarceration, reach young people through education and intervention programs, and expand awareness about the prison-industrial complex. Apathy is not an option; cooperation and activism is the solution!

Help us Starve the Prison-Industrial Complex. If you are interested in contributing or learning more about this important initiative please contact Project NIA volunteer Caelyn Randall (616) 337-4142.

Donations can also be sent directly to Project Nia @

Project NIA
C/o Rogers Park Community Council
1530 West Morse Ave.
Chicago, IL 60626

Locked- Up and Locked-Out Youth Summit

This April, Project Nia and the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender are sponsoring the first annual LOCKED-UP AND LOCKED-OUT YOUTH SUMMIT. 

Registration is FREE and open to ALL young people between the ages of 12 & 24 who want a beginner’s understanding of the school-to-prison pipeline, youth rights in the juvenile justice system, and the impact of the prison industrial complex on youth. 

Local organizations that will be leading workshops at the summit include: Southwest Youth Collaborative, Blocks Together, Circles and Ciphers, Voyce and the Children and Family Justice Center.

At the end of the training, participants will be presented with information about how they can connect to existing youth justice campaigns in Illinois.

Online Registration is available here.

Online Campaign Foments Action in California

Lino Silva was a youth living in the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility when he reached out to the Ella Baker Center and decided to start online petition. Within a couple of days and with the help of, Lino received over 10,00 signatures in support of improving living conditions at the Ventura Youth Prison. The Superintendent of the prison subsequently submitted a report requesting repairs including fixing the sewer system and increasing access to hot water. 

See the whole story here.

Under current Illinois law, a youth may remain on parole until he/she is 21 years old. This means that a youth may be on parole for as many as 8 years.

A bill (HB 4592) was recently introduced in the Illinois General Assembly to reduce the maximum parole period to 6 months. This will most likely be amended to a maximum of 12 months. This stands to be a huge step forward for advocates of juvenile justice. Hearings are pending this week. Letters and phone calls in favor of the bill, directed to your representative would be a huge help in getting this bill passed.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Robyn Gabel of Evanston (18th District).

Please find the text of the bill here.

HB 83

House Bill 83, passed in the fall of 2011, went in to effect as of January 1st of this year. This is great news for juvenile justice advocates. HB 83 encourages judges to look at community alternatives in lieu of incarceration by providing the following information before sentencing (taken from the Juvenile Justice Institute)

◦    Detailed information on the youth’s background, family, and strengths & challenges, including:

◦       Youth’s age

◦       Youth’s criminal background

◦       Review of results of any assessments of the minor, including child    centered assessments such as the CANS

◦       Youth’s educational background (i.e. special ed., school discipline, grade level…)

◦       Physical, mental and emotional health of the youth

◦       Available family support

◦    Detailed information on services that were offered and specific information on why they didn’t work & what could be changed to help them work.

◦       Physical, mental, or emotional health services provided and whether the youth was compliant with services.

◦       Community based services provided, and whether the minor was compliant with the services.

◦       When services fail the court should be provided with a comprehensive explanation of what happened (problems with transportation, support, etc) and what changes might allow the services to be successful.

◦       A listing of specific services within the Department of Juvenile Justice that will meet the individualized needs of the minor.

◦    Detailed information on services available in the community.

◦       Judges can utilize the Illinois Statewide Provider Database (, which recommends available and appropriate services based on the youth’s demographic, clinical, and geographic characteristics.

Community based alternatives have proven to be more effective than incarceration in decreasing repeat offenders and enables youth to stay in contact with his or her support system. HB 83 will also save the state of Illinois millions of dollars (probably more) each year.

Youth Behind Bars

Juvenile-IN-Justice, a project founded by  prominent photographer Richard Ross, documents the lives of youth and administrators at over 100 facilities in 30 different states. He writes, “Juvenile In Justice documents the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them. My medium is a conscience.” Take a look at his moving photos and interviews, here.