Take Action

If you know that incarceration makes youth worse

If you know that youth incarceration is ineffective, costly and counterproductive

If you know that there is a better way to address the needs of youth in trouble with the law…

Then now is the time to WAKE UP and SHARE WHAT YOU KNOW TO BE TRUE.

On February 22, 2012, Governor Pat Quinn announced that he would recommend closing IYC-Murphysboro and IYC-Joliet this fiscal year. This will save the state over $17 million in FY2013. This is a good start and we believe that many more youth prisons can and should be closed too. For specific information about IYC-Murphysboro, click here. For information about IYC-Joliet, click here.

We have the opportunity in Illinois to mobilize to educate the public and push our legislators to close youth prisons. Betsy Clarke, director of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, put it best in a column last year:

Illinois currently runs eight separate far-flung juvenile facilities to house an average of less than 1,200 youth. These eight facilities are costly. The average annual cost per bed has rapidly risen from $70,915 five years ago to an estimate of more than $90,000 this year. The per bed cost at the Murphysboro youth prison, which the governor plans to close, is far above average and climbed to $142,342 per bed in FY10. Operation of each facility entails significant administrative costs as does collective oversight and management of the eight separate facilities.

If each of the eight facilities ran quality programming with successful results, there might be justification for continuing their operation. The facts, however, are dismally opposite. Reports document a juvenile prison system that is ineffective, with over half the youth returning to juvenile prisons within three years. Most facilities struggle to maintain minimal educational programming, let alone adequate mental health treatment, recreation or vocational classes.

The Juvenile Justice Initiative just published an excellent piece outlining the case for closing one or more juvenile prisons in Illinois. Read it to get more background about the stakes in this struggle.

You can also read the John Howard Association’s statement in support of the proposed DJJ closures.

On both humanitarian and fiscal grounds, the status quo is unsustainable. We are extremely sympathetic to those who would lose their jobs with the closing of these facilities. However, we agree strongly with Betsy Clarke who is quoted as saying: “Funding for juvenile justice is a limited amount of money, and we want to use it in the best way possible. Your jobs should not be built on the back of human misery. That should not be our job development plan.”

On Wednesday, April 4th, the Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability will host a hearing on closing IYC-Joliet. Here’s what you can do in the next two days:

1. The following people are the legislative members of the commission. Please contact the co-chairs of the commission in particular to say that you support closing IYC-Joliet:

Senate Co-Chair, Jeffrey Schoenberg (D) — 217-782-2119 or 847-492-1200 or e-mail senator@jschoenberg.org

House Co-Chair, Patricia Bellock (R) — 217-782-1448 or 630-852-8633 or e-mail rep@pbellock.com

2. If you can, please also contact the other members of the Commission:

Senator Michael Frerichs (D) –217-782-2507 or 217-355-5252 or e-mail mike@mikefrerichs.com

Senator Matt Murphy (R) — 217-782-4471 or 847-776-1490 or e-mail senatormattmurphy@gmail.com

Senator Suzi Schmidt (R) — 217-782-7353 or 224-372-7465 or e-mail statesenatorschmidt@gmail.com

Senator Dave Syverson (R) — 217-782-5413 or 815-987-7555 or e-mail info@senatordavesyverson.com

Senator Donne Trotter (D) — 217-782-3201 or 773-933-7715 or e-mail dontrotter@yahoo.com

Representative Elaine Nekritz (D) — 217-558-1004 or 847-257-0450 or e-mail enekritz@repnekritz.org

Representative Raymond Poe (R) — 217-782-0044 or e-mail poe@ilga.gov

Representative Al Riley (D) –217-558-1007 or 708-799-4364 or e-mail rep.riley38@sbcglobal.net

Representative Michael Tryon (R) — 217-782-0432 or 815-459-6453 or e-mail mike@iketryon.com

2. Please take a minute to sign this Online Petition at Change.org thanking Governor Quinn for his leadership in this area.