Local

Juvenile prison population down

The number of juveniles incarcerated in Illinois is on the decline.

The juvenile jail population doubled from 1,534 in 1985 to 3,074 in 2000, and is now down to 1,949 – a 37 percent reduction.

Betsy Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, says juvenile offenses are down, and alternatives to incarceration are up. “What works is what we all, common sense, would do: Going in, talking to the kid, talking to the family, what’s going on, what’s the problem, kid’s not in school – let’s get him back in school, kid needs a job – let’s get (him) a job. Individualized community-based wraparound services are what’s going to prevent re-offending in the future,” she said.

Alternatives to incarceration are also cheaper for taxpayers, costing $10,000 a year or less, while juvenile prison cost $90,000 a year.

The state last year closed two juvenile prisons, Joliet and Murphysboro. It now has six: Chicago, Harrisburg, Kewanee, Pere Marquette (Grafton), St. Charles and Warrenville.