A great deal of attention has been brought to youth incarceration since our initial post about the release of the U.S. Dept of Justice report on sexual victimization in youth prisons
Much conversation has been focused on finding solutions and opportunities as a result. Questions are being asked about the youth being incarcerated in Illinois and how the role of a corrections system. Since the release of the report, Governor Quinn signed three juvenile justice reform bills into law: HB2404 raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction; HB2401 allowing targeted implementation of Redeploy Illinois for juveniles in Cook County; and HB3172 rebalancing the statutory authority granted to juvenile court judges allowing them to serve as effective adjudicators in conjuction with improving access to record expungement. Additionally, Redeploy Illinois funding has been doubled. Both Governor Quinn and the members of the Illinois General Assembly should be commended for these accomplishments which demonstrate their ever growing investment in deincarceration through community-based and cost-effective interventions.
It’s time to stop these crimes against Illinois’ imprisoned youth
In Illinois, more than 15 percent of the 500 youths surveyed said they had been victims, and the overwhelming majority of them cited sexual misconduct by prison staff.
Five of the six youth prisons surveyed in Illinois had sexual victimization rates above the national average, and the federal survey singled out Illinois as one of four states with the highest rates of sexual victimization.
Alarms should be ringing throughout state government.
Some lawmakers have already sounded the alarms. The Illinois House of Representatives RestorativeJustice Committee to hold hearing on July 30th
Soon after the report’s release, Restorative Justice Committee Chair, Representative LaShawn K. Ford established an emergency hearing to address the findings of the Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report identifying Illinois as one of the top four states in the nation for the sexual victimization of youth in our state youth prisons:
With more than 15 percent of the 461 Illinois youth inmates surveyed reporting being sexually victimized in 2012 – about 35 percent higher than the national average of 9.5 percent – I felt that, as Chair of the Restorative Justice Committee, we must hold an emergency hearing where the concerns of all involved parties are heard so Illinois can make its Juvenile Justice System safe for our children.
In response to the report and Rep. Ford’s call for a hearing, JJI Policy Director Nora Collins-Mandeville responded: these are egregious violations of human rights. No child should be subjected to this mistreatment. We must fulfill our duty to rehabilitate responsibly.
For more, see Representative Ford’s press release here.
For Illinois General Assembly’s House Restorative Justice Committee hearing notice for July 30th, click here
For WBEZ91.5 related online article, click here.
WBEZ91.5’s Afternoon Shift discusses report findings and upcoming hearing
Last month a federal report named Illinois as one of the worst in the nation when it comes to reported sexual victimization inside its youth prisons. The report was a shock to juvenile justice advocates and Illinois officials, who have promised action in response to the findings. State lawmakers have gotten involved as well, and planned an emergency hearing of a state House committee at the end of July to investigate the high levels of reported sexual abuse. Today prison reformer John Maki, former Judge George Timberlake and juvenile justice head Arthur Bishop talk about why the reported levels of abuse were so high, and what can be done to make sure the problem is addressed. Listen to full broadcast here.
Here are two additional pieces by WBEZ91.5 coverage related to sexual victimization in Illinois youth prisons:
Click here to listen to JJI President, Elizabeth Clarke, other advocates and public callers. The show also includes audio from Patrick Smith’s interviews with Judge Timberlake, Rep. Dennis M. Reboletti, Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy, John Maki, and Arthur Bishop. Patrick Smith of WBEZ talks to Molly Adams and Brian Baylon, hosts of The Vocalo Morning AMp. This is a call-in talk show on 89.5 FM and 88.7 FM in NW Indiana, south Chicago and part of Michigan. Like WBEZ, Vocalo is owned by Chicago Public Media.
Mariame Kaba of Project NIA, is interviewed by the same hosts here. Mariame says she is not at all shocked by the survey results and thinks the reality is far worse than the survey indicates:
We have a deep, deep sense of feeling like those young people are disposable, and we have a difficult time feeling empathy for them in any way — forget about the criminal, legal system — just generally. We tend not to put our empathy in young black and brown kids.
The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice also responds
The findings are “concerning” and vowed a planned top-to-bottom review of Illinois’ six juvenile centers by a team headed by “two prominent experts who have done high-level investigations” would root out and resolve the problem.
“Even whether it was 1 percent (of young inmates reporting sexual abuse), we would be concerned,” he said. “I have zero tolerance for sexual abuse of youth in our care, and this does bring to the forefront the need for us to hone in on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
IDJJ Director Bishop also provided details in a WSILtv story:
“We have immediately reached out and made contact with some prominent experts that are going to come in, evaluate. And they are not going to sit at a desk and make phone calls,” explains Bishop. “They are going to be hands-on, go into our facilities, interview staff, interview youth.”
He will not say who the experts are, but says they will help form a safer and more therapeutic system for Illinois’ troubled youth.
Bishop says the DJJ has implemented a new 24-hour hotline for juvenile inmates to report abuse. Officials are also looking at creating youth councils and advisory groups with the youth centers.
For additional coverage, here’s another article.