Pritzker, Stratton launches community-based approach to transform juvenile justice statewide

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FILE – In this Friday, April 17, 2020, file photo, Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference at the Thompson Center in Chicago. Democratic governors say they want a bipartisan statement from all governors opposing President Donald Trump’s threatened deployment of the U.S. military to quell unrest stemming from protests over the death of George Floyd. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

CHICAGO, Ill. (WMBD) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton released the new plan they say will transform the state’s juvenile justice system over the next four years.

They’re calling it the “21st Century Illinois Transformation Model”, which is a three-phase plan designed to reduce the harm of incarceration.

The plan would transition youth to small, regional residential centers, invest in community wraparound support and intervention services for justice-involved youth, and increase financial support for victim services in communities that are disproportionately impacted by violence.

The plan comes from the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), in partnership with the Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative (JEO). Both organizations used decades of evidence nationwide to develop the plan. They said their goal with the new plan is achieving meaningful transformation, better youth outcomes, and increased community safety.

Larger DJJ facilities will be repurposed for use by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to provide additional space and prevent overcrowding in their facilities. Current DJJ staff will continue to work in the department or in similar roles at IDOC.

As mentioned, the plan will be created in three phases:

  • Phase I
    • beginning of increased community investment in:
      • wraparound support
      • intervention services
      • reentry programs for justice-involved youth
    • Additional investments are planned for:
      • victim services in communities that are disproportionately impacted by violence and disinvestment
  • Phases II & III
    • continue the regional reinvestments
    • start the process of transferring DJJ’s larger facilities to IDOC

Pritzker said an essential rule of good governance is recognizing the need to change laws that have failed the people they serve and doing what you can to reverse the harm done.

“It’s in that spirit that over the next four years, my administration is transforming our juvenile justice system from one that disproportionately harms Black youth, families, and communities to a nation-leading, restorative and therapeutic model that supports all Illinois youth, families and communities more equitably,” Pritzker said.

“We’ve developed this model based on decades of research, and I’m particularly proud that here in Illinois, we will be working directly with youth and families who have been impacted by the system as it has existed for years.”

Stratton said the state has a timely opportunity to do right by the kids, families, and communities of Illinois.

“As a Justice, Equity, and Opportunity initiative, this plan will eliminate harmful policies and practices of the past, improve the conditions of Illinois juvenile facilities, increase prevention programming, and bring actual justice and restoration to some of the most vulnerable youth in our state,” Stratton said.

“This plan will not only advance reforms at IDJJ, but it will also allow the Department of Corrections to expand their programming and reduce overcrowding within their facilities.”

DJJ Director Heidi Mueller said the new facility will allow the organization to become more intentional in engaging families and transitioning youth from facilities back into Central Illinois communities as well as allow younger or more vulnerable youth to be placed closer to their families.

“In addition, DJJ will be able to design the new facility to be as safe, therapeutic and healthy as possible for youth and staff,” Mueller said.

“The new, small, central Illinois residential center, will allow DJJ to maintain smaller populations in each existing facility to protect public health, as well as allowing each facility team to focus on developing specialized skill-building and treatment, and more effectively coordinating the transition for youth back into their communities.”

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