On June 25th, the Juvenile Justice Initiative joined the Macon County Juvenile Justice Council to hold “Crossroads for Change” at Eisenhower High School in Decatur. The event informed and engaged the community in discussions and planning for Macon County’s juvenile justice system.
Over 150 attendees participated, representing a broad group of stakeholders including educators, public health providers, service providers, probation staff, law enforcement, faith community members, youth, parents, business community members, state’s attorneys, juvenile justice council members, public defenders, funders, county government officials. Illinois House Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) also joined attendees considering the ways local community can help prevent youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system and support those youth who are already involved with the Macon County Juvenile Courts.
The Honorable R.C. Bollinger, a Macon County Judge, spearheaded the forum and demonstrated the power of judicial leadership in pursuing reform initiatives. Judge Bollinger was joined by Macon State Attorney Jay Scott and Macon County Public Defender Rodney Forbes to discuss the operation of the juvenile courts and how the roles each of them plays within the Macon County system. All of these local leaders emphasized the importance of diversion and Macon’s use of Redeploy Illinois, CCBYS, and teen courts. Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission Chair and JJI Board member, the Honorable Judge Timberlake, followed the panel to provide a statewide perspective with helpful guidance about best-practices and future opportunities in our state.
James Bell, the nationally recognized director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice and Equity, delivered the keynote speech, energizing and challenged attendees to contemplate more effective methods to support a “youth justice” system. He asked attendees to consider the role that the justice system has played historically, what a future justice system could look like, and the need for data-driven decisions and evidence-based practices. Perhaps, most importantly, he incorporated a reminder that kids make mistakes and this fact must be kept in the forefront of all our approaches and system-responses.
This event was an impressive example of the powerful role played by local leaders and communities in developing and supporting individualized responses to hold youth accountable in meaningful ways.
WAND TV News at 5 pm aired a segment about the event on June 25th, which can be viewed around the 6.47 minute mark of the video here. The Herald-Review’s Theresa Churchill also published, “Education, not jail, is solution” on June 26th to report on the event.