Illinois’ juvenile justice system needs an overhaul, according to a new study. Of those who are paroled from the juvenile system, 48 percent end up back in. Add to that those who graduate to the adult Department of Corrections, and you have well over half back behind bars, according to the study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.
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What’s needed is a release program carefully tailored to each offender, says commission Chairman George W. Timberlake. “The field of behavioral change has greatly advanced in the last 20 years. We actually have responses that can make kids better and reduce crime, and we ought to use those as conditions of parole orders, not boilerplate,” he said. Timberlake, a retired judge from Mount Vernon, complained that parole hearings before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board last only moments, and depend on the written testimony of a parole officer who need not even be present. He said most parole applicants have no idea what is going on, and don’t know they have a right to be represented by an attorney, and the conditions of parole that the Prisoner Review Board determines are nearly the same for all offenders. Timberlake wants parole hearings for juveniles moved from the Prisoner Review Board to the courts. In the juvenile system, offenders are not sentenced to a definite term. They are released (a) an parole, or (b) when they turn 21, or (c) when they have served the maximum time that an adult would get for the same offense.
Also recommended: Keeping juvenile parolees in their communities at a cheaper cost than incarceration, when they commit parole violations that are not crimes, such as truancy or curfew violations. The cost of juvenile incarceration is $86,000 a year. Community-based rehabilitation programs cost $3,000 to $8,000 per year.