Archive for the ‘Youth Incarceration’ category

Fact Sheet: Disproportionate Minority Contact 2013

November 3, 2015

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission put together a helpful handout that underscores disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system at the national, state and county levels for calendar year 2013.

You can download the handout HERE.

National Statistics

Decision Points White Black All Other Minorities Total

Population at Risk







Arrests 811,500 400,700 37,300 1,249,500
Referrals 654,200 374,100 30,200 1,058,500
Diverted 195,200 81,000 7,600 283,900
Detention 121,600 93,000 7,000 221,600
Petitioned 338,600 227,200 17,000 582,800
Adjudicated 196,700 116,200 10,400 323,300
Probation 127,400 71,000 6,900 205,300
Placement 44,800 31,600 2,200 78,700
Transferred to Adult Court 2,100 1,800 100 4,000


Relative Rate Indices All Minorities (including Black) Black
Arrests 1.7 2.3
Referrals 1.1 1.2
Diversion 0.7 0.7
Detention 1.3 1.3
Petitioned 1.2 1.2
Adjudicated Delinquent 0.9 0.9
Probation 1.0 0.9
Placement 1.2 1.2
Transferred to Adult Court 1.3 1.3


Profile of Illinois Incarcerated Youth – August 2014

September 18, 2014

The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice publishes monthly data about the population in its youth prisons. You can read August data here (PDF).

“At the end of the August, the population in the juvenile prisons was 726 – a new record low. Less than 100 of those youth are in for murder (8) or Class X felonies (74) – the offenses that are not eligible for Redeploy Illinois. The rest of the offenses are all either Redeploy eligible or parole violations – 18 are in for misdemeanors and 90 are in for Class 4 felonies (the least serious felony classification). 42% (306) are from Cook County, which has still not adopted Juvenile Redeploy IL.”

Updated: A Conscious Chicagoan’s Guide to Youth Detention and Incarceration

May 14, 2014

% of incarcerated youth In 2012, we published a report to inform community members in Chicago about juvenile detention and incarceration (with a particular focus on Cook County). We conceived of this as a cheat sheet that would provide the most recent data about detention and incarceration in Illinois and Cook County that we could find.

Today, we are releasing an updated version of the “Conscious Chicagoan’s Guide to Youth Detention and Incarceration” that includes data mostly from 2012 & 2013. The data cover both the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) as well as the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

We are releasing the guide on the heels of our more comprehensive juvenile justice in Illinois data snapshot.

You can download our updated Conscious Chicagoan’s Guide to Youth Detention and Incarceration HERE (PDF).

Fewer Youth Incarcerated in Illinois: A New Report

December 21, 2013

A new report from the National Juvenile Justice Network  and Texas Public Policy Foundation shows that the number of youth confined in state and county facilities nationwide strongly declined in 2011.

“For the 2001-to-2011 ten-year period, the number of confined youth declined by 41% nationwide, or an annual average decline of 4.1% — a dramatic drop since 2000, when a record-setting 108,802 youth were held in detention centers awaiting trial or confined by the courts in juvenile facilities in the U.S. The nationwide decline in 2011 (from 70,793 to 61,423 youth) continues the trend from the previous year (the latest for which data is available), which showed youth confinement was reduced by 32% nationwide from 2001-2010.”


Between 2001`and 2011, Illinois reduced its youth incarceration rate by 41% matching the national number. The number of youth confined between 2010 and 2011 dropped by 5%. 2106 youth were confined in Illinois in 2011. Illinois confined 169 youth for every 100,000 youth in the state’s general population, or 13.3% lower than the U.S. average rate of confinement (195).

Information about the Report

The report, an update to the “Comeback States” report issued by the groups in June, uses data from 2011 (the most recent year for which national data is available) on youth confinement provided by the U.S. Justice Department’s (USDOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to track the ongoing national reduction of youth incarceration, as well as the continued progress of the nine states leading the nation on implementing meaningful juvenile justice reforms resulting in the reduction of youth in confinement in their states. These comeback states include: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, New York, Mississippi, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Incarcerated Youth: Some Infographics

November 26, 2013

The Children and Family Justice Center created these great infographic about the realities of youth incarceration in Illinois.



Infographic: Juvenile Incarceration in the U.S.

September 18, 2013


From the Pew Charitable Trusts:

Between 2010 and 2011, the number of committed youth—those locked up as a result of a court-ordered sanction—fell in 43 states, according to the most recent data released by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The juvenile commitment rate dropped 14 percent during that period. In 2011, almost 42,000 committed youth were held on any given day in a juvenile corrections facility or other residential placement. This represents 1 in 751 youth across the United States.

Infographic: FY2012 Admissions to the Department of Juvenile Justice (Youth Prison System)

August 21, 2013

Check out this great interactive infographic that our friend and volunteer Eva Nagao created to share data about FY2012 admissions to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

New Paper: Alternatives to Youth Incarceration in Chicago

August 19, 2013


There is an urgent need to find constructive ways to respond to young people in conflict with the law. Research compellingly demonstrates that youth placed in juvenile detention centers compared to alternative interventions are much more likely to later spend significant time in prison (Aizer and Doyle, 2013). Juvenile and adult incarceration both create exorbitant financial and social costs (Petteruti, Velázquez, and Walsh, 2009). Incarceration of juveniles is harmful to young peoples’ development, education, families, communities, and their current and future socioeconomic status (Majd, 2011; Bickel, 2010). Furthermore, incarcerating youth is not effective at enhancing public safety (Butts & Evans, 2011; Petteruti, Velázquez, & Walsh, 2009).

In Chicago, a group of individuals and organizations are working to address the needs of young people who others have mostly given up on. Behind the headlines of gang violence, shootings, and despair, there is an untold and unheralded story of perseverance, tenacity, and hope in communities across the city. Every single day, there are individuals representing various community-based organizations in Chicago who are called to meet the needs of youth in conflict with the law. They do so with shockingly few resources, mostly out of the public eye, and always with a determination that all young people deserve love and support.

prison In the United States, over 2.2 million people are incarcerated in prisons and jails. To some, the country has become a “Prison Nation.” Young people have not escaped the historical trend of increasing criminalization. As a way to decrease the numbers of people behind bars, states have turned to alternatives to incarceration.

Today, Project NIA is pleased to release a paper written by Michelle VanNatta and Mariame Kaba which specifically addresses five programs in Chicago that provide alternatives to incarceration for young people charged with or convicted of crimes. Included in this exploration are issues of cost, effectiveness, capacity, and the needs of youth and organizations moving forward.

At their core, the interventions and programs that are highlighted in this paper privilege relationship-building above everything else. This will not be satisfying for those who seek a quick-fix to address the needs of youth in conflict with the law. The organizations and programs featured define success based on whether they have been able to connect young people with a person who will walk with them through a perilous road littered with pitfalls and danger.

These aren’t programs that operate from 9 to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. The staff don’t necessarily hold advanced degrees and most are paid at near minimum wage rates. When asked about their program budgets, most directors smile while suggesting that they made due with very limited funds. Most of the programs are housed in and/or run by faith-based institutions like churches.

In the end, we hope that those who read the paper will come away with a better understanding of the challenges and the promise of current “alternative to incarceration” programs in Chicago. As the value of these programs becomes clear, we also hope that funders and community members will direct more resources to them.

The paper can be downloaded HERE (PDF).

Special thanks to Matt DeMateo, Father Dave Kelly, Heidi Mueller, Cliff Nellis, Ethan Ucker for taking the time to talk with us about their work. Thanks also to our friend Caitlin Seidler for donating her time to design the paper.

Please direct any questions or comments about this paper to Michelle VanNatta and Mariame Kaba at

Also, Join us on September 26th for an event that addresses the issues raised in this paper. Space is very limited. We will not be accepting any walk-ins. You must pre-register. Information is HERE.

Finally, a few months ago, Leah Varjacques created a video story featuring two of the programs featured in the paper: Circles & Ciphers and Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation.

restoring hope from Leah Varjacques on Vimeo.

A Comeback for Kids: Illinois a National Leader in Reducing Number of Youth in Confinement

June 18, 2013

New national report (PDF) showcases how state improved conditions for kids and communities through key juvenile justice policy reforms

CHICAGO – The number of youth confined in Illinois state and county facilities (public and private) declined by 38 percent from 2001 to 2010, according to a new report, “Comeback States,” released today by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice (TPPF).

The report found that youth confinement in public facilities in Illinois peaked at 3,074, in 2000, up from 1,534 in 1985. By 2010, however, Illinois’ confined youth population was reduced to 1,949 in public facilities, and the state’s youth incarceration rate overall declined to 119 confined youth for every 100,000 young people (age 10-to-16 years old) in the state’s population.

“In Illinois, there is a growing recognition that incarcerating children must be a last resort chosen only after all less restrictive options have been exhausted,” said Elizabeth Clarke, President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, a member of NJJN. “Local leaders know that kids coming out of prison too often return to prison and that rehabilitation services delivered in their home communities are much more effective and cost less than the nearly $90,000 annual cost of sending a child to a state prison.”

For youth being held in detention centers awaiting trial or incarcerated in juvenile facilities, this is a critical change. Youth who are locked up are separated from their families, many witness violence, and struggle when they get out, trying to complete high school, get jobs or go to college. Aside from the human toll, the financial costs of maintaining large secure facilities have also made it critical to rethink juvenile justice in every community.

For youth being held in detention centers awaiting trial or incarcerated in juvenile facilities, this is a critical change. Youth who are locked up are separated from their families, many witness violence, and struggle when they get out, trying to complete high school, get jobs or go to college. Aside from the human toll, the financial costs of maintaining large secure facilities have also made it critical to rethink juvenile justice in every community.

The report argues that the turnaround can be broadened by changes to state policy like those made in the comeback states that reflected declines in youth crime, new understandings of the teenage brain and adolescent development, availability of less costly, evidence-based alternatives to incarceration, and constrained state budgets. These policy reforms include:

  • Increasing the availability of evidence-based alternatives to confinement;
  • Requiring intake procedures that reduce the use of detention facilities;
  • Closing or downsizing youth confinement facilities;
  • Reducing schools’ overreliance on the justice system to address discipline issues;
  • Disallowing incarceration for minor offenses; and
  • Restructuring juvenile justice responsibilities and finances among states and counties.

NJJN and TPPF identified these six policies as key measures of positive reform – five of which were adopted by Illinois – because they all encourage reduced reliance on detention and incarceration across the U.S.

“The policy reforms adopted by these Comeback States reflect a new approach to addressing youth incarceration in the nation,” said Marc Levin, Director of the Center for Effective Justice at TPPF. “States should continue to look to innovative policy changes that emphasize rehabilitation over youth incarceration in order to create safer communities while also reducing the huge societal and economic costs of youth confinement.”


The Comeback States highlighted in the report were selected because they adopted at least two-thirds of the policy changes the report focused on, exceeded the national-average reduction in youth confinement between 2001 and 2010, and experienced a decline in youth arrests during the same period. States that met this threshold included: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, New York, Mississippi, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

In addition to the advances made in these states, the United States also saw remarkable improvement in reducing youth confinement overall. According to the report, the number of confined American youth reached a record 108,802 in 2000, driven by an increase in youth arrests, public concern regarding youth crime, and tough state policies favoring incarceration. In the decade that followed, however, youth confinement in U.S. dropped by 39 percent – a dramatic turnaround that virtually erased the spike in youth incarceration that began in the 1985 and peaked in 2000.

“States have made strides in changing their policies so that youth are held accountable in age appropriate ways, but there is more work to be done,” said Sarah Bryer, Director of NJJN. “It is critical that we build upon the success seen over the past twenty years and make every effort possible to adopt meaningful reforms that reduce youth confinement and strengthen our communities.”

Despite the turnaround seen nationwide and in the Comeback States, NJJN and TPPF caution that the high cost of youth incarceration to taxpayers and society, the infrequent use of cost-effective alternatives to youth incarceration, and the high level of youth confined for non-serious offenses, remain a serious cause of concern.

In Illinois, juvenile justice groups aren’t resting on their laurels either.

“Although Illinois is on the right track, we have more work to do to ensure that every child in conflict with the law has access to community based alternatives through programs like Redeploy Illinois, to keep low-level offenders out of prison,” added Clarke. “And we must work to ensure that those few youngsters removed from home are safe and receive the mental health counseling, education and other services that will give them an opportunity to mature into responsible adults.”

Two pieces of recently passed legislation awaiting Governor Quinn’s signature would do much to keep this comeback going and continue the positive trend of de-incarceration in the state by raising the juvenile jurisdiction age for felonies to 17 and allowing Cook County (which sends the largest number of kids to state juvenile prisons) to begin a Redeploy Illinois program in a section of the county, such as a specific police district or group of police districts. Redeploy Illinois provides funding for counseling and other direct services to young offenders, and participating counties agree in exchange to a 25 percent reduction in the number of juveniles committed to state prisons over a three year baseline. The program also ensures transparency and accountability through a statutorily required annual report and oversight board.

The development of this report was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through a grant to Public Interest Projects and other organizations committed to improving outcomes for kids and communities.

Youth incarceration has dropped by 36% in Illinois since 1997

March 7, 2013

A new report about youth incarceration in the U.S. was released by the Annie E Casey Foundation last week. The report finds that youth incarceration declined in every state between 1997 and 2010. Specifically:

America’s rate of locking up young people has dropped by more than 40 percent over a 15-year period, with no decrease in public safety, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

A new KIDS COUNT data snapshot, “Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States,” reports that the number of young people in correctional facilities on a single day fell to 70,792 in 2010, from a high of 107,637 in 1995. This downward trend, documented in data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement, has accelerated in recent years.

Despite the sharp decline, the United States still leads the industrialized world in locking up its young people. And the majority of this country’s incarcerated youth are held for nonviolent offenses — such as truancy, low-level property offenses and technical probation violations — that are not clear public-safety threats.



Illinois’s youth incarceration rate dropped 36-percent between 1997 and 2010. Below is a chart representing the trend in Illinois.

Youth Confinement in Illinois: 1997 and 2010



Change 1997-2010


Rate per 100,000


Rate per 100,000









SOURCE:  Sickmund, M., Sladky,T.J., Kang,W., and Puzzanchera, C. (2011) “Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement.”

See how Illinois compares to other states here.