Juvenile Protection and Safety

                                                                                                                        January 6, 2015
Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner
Transition Team Headquarters
410 N. Michigan Avenue
South Tower Room 450
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Governor-Elect Rauner,

Congratulations on your election.  It is clear that you and your staff have an enormous and rewarding job before you, addressing the many fiscal and policy issues facing Illinois.  We represent advocacy organizations that have worked on one aspect of policy -- the juvenile justice area in federal, state and local government.  Our goal is to make the juvenile justice system in Illinois, home of the world’s first juvenile court, the most effective and innovative in the world. Improving the state’s juvenile justice system will improve the lives of young people in conflict with the law, protect public safety and use scarce public funding more efficiently and effectively.  The principles we have developed over the years, adhere to and promote are attached.

 While there has been great progress in incorporating these principles into Illinois government over the past few years, there is also much remaining to be done.  To that end, we offer a list of issues that we believe are the building blocks toward an exemplary system.  We would like to work with you and your staff on them after you have been inaugurated.  We are, of course, open to expanding or modifying this list as we work together to create a shared vision of the most effective system to protect communities while promoting the best possible outcomes for Illinois youth and their families.

  • Most important in advancing these principles is the selection of qualified and visionary leaders for a number of agencies within your purview. 
    • Department of Juvenile Justice: we believe the current director, Candice Jones, is a highly qualified individual who has demonstrated exemplary leadership and management skills during her tenure.  We support the current direction of the IDJJ as well as the leadership of Director Jones and her team.  In addition, it is important to make appointments to the IDJJ Advisory Board of experienced and thoughtful people to serve as a resource and a sounding board for the Director.
    • Governor’s Office Staff:  We understand that you have hired Samantha Gaddy and are very pleased with this choice.  She is experienced and has fine judgment and ability.
    • Prisoner Review Board: The Board Chair appointment is critical. We hope you will select someone not only with an understanding of the importance of the role of the board in securing positive youth outcomes, but also someone who can address the current due process and procedural weaknesses that exist in the juvenile parole system, as outlined in the class action litigation.
    • Juvenile Justice Commission:  The Commission has played a leading role in creating a vision for juvenile justice in the state and in developing research and pilot projects that advance sound policy.  We support reappointment of many of its members and would welcome the opportunity to discuss with your staff the upcoming expiration of terms.
    • Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority:  We believe this agency has been underutilized and could be an essential ingredient in the development of data and research to shape policy direction in the state.  We recommend you identify an experienced and effective Executive Director who understands research, policy development and the importance of the juvenile system within the entire policy process. It will also be important to appoint a strong Chair with some familiarity with and interest in juvenile issues. The Board appointments are also critical, since the Board should be responsible for allocating funding to effective programs and projects to help improve the juvenile system.
    • While the Department of Children and Family Services is not technically part of the juvenile justice system, it does have an enormous impact on it.  We exhort you to find a strong and qualified person who will collaborate with justice system leaders and stakeholders to increase good outcomes for all children in Illinois.  This partnership has been lacking in the past, missing opportunities to use public resources more efficiently and to the detriment of youth.
    • Similarly, the Department of Human Services plays an important role in the juvenile justice system. Juvenile Redeploy Illinois is housed there, and programs such as CCBYS, Juvenile Justice Mental Health, homeless services for youth provide essential resources for youth. We urge you to appoint a Secretary attuned to these issues.
  • There are a series of policy issues we also support, which are listed here but we can review with your staff in excruciating detail. Of urgent concern are the following matters:
    • Redeploy Illinois expansion - support the development of effective (and less costly) community-based alternatives to incarceration.
    • Automatic Transfer reform - Return to the judiciary the authority to make the decision whether to prosecute a youth as an adult as recommended by the Illinois Supreme Court
    • Eliminate the commitment of misdemeanants to DJJ - expansion of Redeploy Illinois could eliminate the costly incarceration of juveniles for low-level offenses.
    • Shorten the length of time youth are on aftercare parole -Replace the requirement that youth be on parole until the age of 21 with reasonable, risk-responsive statutory standards
    • Ensure implementation of the two federal court consent decrees –eliminate solitary confinement of children and safeguard the decreased population trend.
    • Address the racial disparities by: 
      • ensuring a  well-trained and resourced counsel system for youth throughout the prosecution;
      • encouraging the elimination of the school-to-prison pipeline; and
      • removing juvenile arrests from all criminal databases.

Less urgent but ongoing issues include:

    • Encouraging utilization of restorative justice practices.
    • Improving the reliance on juvenile justice councils for state planning. 
    • Eliminating courtroom shackling of all youth.
    • Investing in a statewide data warehouse that measures, among other things, positive outcomes for youth.
    • Increasing child trauma awareness and community-based mental health, trauma and substance abuse treatment.
    • Eliminating the mandatory offense based sex offender registry for youth.
    • Ensuring Medicaid enrollment for all eligible youth.

We appreciate that you have an enormous challenge ahead and offer our support in working with you and your staff on these issues.  Our communities will be safer with the implementation of juvenile justice policies based on individual and proportionate decision-making.  Our state will benefit from the shift away from costly and ineffective punishment for the sake of punishment. The children touched by the justice system and their families can benefit from your implementation of the consent decrees in two federal lawsuits and your leadership and guidance.  Changing the course of their lives to become positive members of the community can change the course of Illinois.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Child and Family Justice Center, Northwestern Law School
Enlace
Illinois Justice Project
Illinois Parent Teacher Association
John Howard Association
Juvenile Justice Initiative
Loyola University Civitas Childlaw Center
Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, Roosevelt University
George Timberlake, Chair, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission 

cc
Chief of Staff Mike Zolnierowitcz
David Wu
Aaron Winters
Samantha Gaddy


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THANK YOU,
Darvel Ahmad Stinson
Juvenile Protection & Safety
DStinson@illinoispta.org


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