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Illinois Governor Orders Major Change to Juvenile Prison System

April 15, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - In hopes of changing the direction of the state's juvenile justice system, Gov. Pat Quinn has signed an executive order to roll the program into the Department of Children and Family Services. Less than four years ago, the Department of Juvenile Justice was separated from the adult prison system, but the shift to being a solo agency was unsuccessful, due to a litany of problems including constraints in program expansion as well as hiring and budgetary issues.

Patricia Connell is the juvenile justice consultant for the John Howard Association. She says an adjustment in resources will have to be made in order for the merger to be a success.

"If all you do is move DJJ to DCFS and you don't give either entity any more dollars, it's not so clear that the resources will be adequate to serve both populations."

She hopes to soon see another needed change to the state's juvenile justice system, Connell says.

"Making sure that we have adequate mental health services that are available once youth are released back into the community is another very lofty goal, and I hope that we will get closer to that place."

Gov. Quinn would like the merger to save the state money and make the juvenile justice system less punitive and more rehabilitative, with treatment-focused programs. The governor has asked legislators, prison employee unions and advocates to assist in creating a bill that would lead to a successful fusion of the two departments.

Aricka Flowers, Public News Service - IL