Stemming the Tide of Youth in Prison
Monday, April 9, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Seven in 10 juveniles arrested in Illinois have underlying mental health issues, and advocates are urging lawmakers to offer them treatment rather than jail time.
According to the report “Stemming the Tide,” 30,000 young people have been arrested and 11,000 incarcerated in the state. Public Defender Amy Campanelli is calling on lawmakers to implement a diversion plan like the one that's been successful in the Miama-Dade area in Florida.
It allows officers to issue citations to 8- to 17-year-olds who commit misdemeanors, rather than taking them to jail. The young people are then evaluated to see if intervention is needed.
Campanelli said the key to success is that the program is run by a social service agency, rather than the criminal justice system.
"If you look at the last 40 years, what has punishment done? What have tough-on-crime laws done? What has the drug war done? Nothing,” Campanelli said. “It has incarcerated, the majority, black and brown youths, taken away generations of people from their families, and it has not made us safer."
The Illinois Legislature created a task force to produce the report. The panel made 14 recommendations, including improving mental health screenings for early identification of youth at risk, and having someone check up on those kids after release to make sure they're back in school and receiving treatment.
Jen McGowan-Tomke, co-chair of the task force and associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said another issue that has to be addressed is the shortage of treatment programs in Illinois.
"Youth that are arrested, about 70 percent, have a mental health condition,” McGowan-Tomke said. “We have a critical need to invest in community-based mental health services as there is a significant shortage across Illinois."
Campanelli said the state also needs to address the impact of poverty and racism in the juvenile justice system.
"These are the next leaders in our country, and we have to stop using this narrative that 'oh, you know, it's the south and west sides,’” she said. “These are real people, they have names, they have lives, they have parents, they have siblings. And we have to look at the individual and what they can give to society."
The report also called for training crisis-intervention teams, and restoring funding for the Mental Health Juvenile Justice Programs.
get more stories like this via email
This election season, South Dakota is starting to implement voting-access reforms in light of a recent settlement with Native American tribes…
Between rising inflation and the ups and downs of the stock market, it isn't surprising that folks are concerned about their own financial situation…
The U.S. Postal Service is hiring 28,000 seasonal employees ahead of the surge in end-of-year holiday letters and packages for facilities in Michigan …
The roughly 2.4 million Ohioans who rely on Social Security income are expected to get a big boost in benefits, but advocates for the program are …
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and her challenger, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, both are courting votes from Maine's largest contingency -- …
Ahead of revised methane regulations expected from the federal government, a new study shows that gas flaring in oil-producing states such as Texas …
Health and Wellness
Even for Virginians who think they're too busy to exercise, experts say there's one surefire way to squeeze in a modest workout: walking. Although …
Groups challenging the criminal consequences for failing to pay rent in Arkansas say they'll take another run at it, perhaps as a class-action …