The number of juveniles incarcerated in Illinois is on the decline. The juvenile jail population doubled from 1,534 in 1985 to 3,074 in 2000, and is now down to 1,949 – a 37 percent reduction. Betsy Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, says juvenile offenses are down, and alternatives to incarceration are up.
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“What works is what we all, common sense, would do: Going in, talking to the kid, talking to the family, what’s going on, what’s the problem, kid’s not in school – let’s get him back in school, kid needs a job – let’s get (him) a job. Individualized community-based wraparound services are what’s going to prevent re-offending in the future,” she said.
Alternatives to incarceration are also cheaper for taxpayers, costing $10,000 a year or less, while juvenile prison cost $90,000 a year.
The state last year closed two juvenile prisons, Joliet and Murphysboro. It now has six: Chicago, Harrisburg, Kewanee, Pere Marquette (Grafton), St. Charles and Warrenville.