Department of Juvenile Justice Conditions

IL Models for Change Report on DJJ Behavioral Health

In September, 2009, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice requested technical assistance from the Illinois Models for Change initiative in evaluating the department’s behavioral health policies, practices and programming. The department’s director requested the assistance after two youth committed suicide in DJJ facilities within a 12-month period, in Sept. 2008 and Sept. 2009.

The Models for Change initiative assembled a team of national and local mental health and corrections experts to evaluate the department’s behavioral health program and make recommendations, based on a series of visits to the department’s eight juvenile facilities.

Systemwide, the assessment team found some positive steps toward a more rehabilitative model of corrections, such as a reduction in the long-term use of solitary confinement for youth with behavioral problems and a transition to the use of single beds rather than bunk  beds, which pose a risk for suicidal youth.

Still, the team found widespread and serious deficiencies in the department’s behavioral health programs, from the failure to use validated mental health and risk-assessment screening and assessment instruments, the lack of a comprehensive continuum of behavioral health services, a “critical shortage” of behavioral health personnel resulting in high caseloads for professional staff, as well as a lack of adequate training for staff on behavioral health issues.

View the July, 2010 report here.

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John Howard Association of IL Monitoring Reports for State Juvenile Prisons

The John Howard Association monitors the state’s eight juvenile correctional facilities through funding from the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative. The following are links to the JHA’s most recent reports:

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 ACLU Lawsuit to Improve Conditions, Services in State Juvenile Prisons

The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice agreed in September, 2012 to improve conditions and services for youth being held in juvenile justice facilities, under a provisional agreement reached in a federal class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Under the provisional agreement, independent experts would investigate conditions and procedures and present a plan for improvement within six months.

The lawsuit charges that the state provides youth with inadequate services in such areas as mental health care and education and that youth are subjected to dangerous and unlawful conditions, including excessive solitary confinement.

Click here to read the Chicago Sun-Times story on the lawsuit and provisional agreement.

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly on Dec. 6, 2012 approved an agreement between the ACLU of Illinois and the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

“We are ready to begin the process of improving services and care for youth at our state juvenile justice facilities,” said Adam Schwartz, senior staff counsel at the ACLU of Illinois. “We look forward to working with the Department of Juvenile Justice to ensure that the problems facing Illinois youth will be addressed and corrected.”

The consent decree calls for court-appointed experts to develop a remedial plan to improve mental health services, education, the use of solitary confinement, safety and the commitment of youth beyond their release date solely for lack of a community placement.

Click here to read the press release by the ACLU on the approval by the federal court, here to read the consent decree and here for the original complaint.