Governor Quinn's Proposal to Close DJJ Facilities
The Right Decision for Illinois
In his recent budget address, Governor Pat Quinn proposed closing two Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities, IYC-Murphysboro and IYC-Joliet. As the only independent group that systemically monitors DJJ's facilities, the John Howard Association (JHA) believes that this is the right decision for Illinois.
Fiscally, Illinois needs to cut costs, and DJJ spends a significant part of its current $140 million annual budget maintaining facilities it does not need. Both facilities slated for closure hold far fewer youth than they were designed to house, at high costs. Murphysboro, for instance, holds about 30 youth, though it was designed to incarcerate almost 160. Joliet houses around 220 youth, though it was designed for 344. Closing these facilities will save taxpayers almost $20 million a year. While DJJ should never hold youth in crowded conditions, the agency's overall population has been steadily dropping for the past six years and is well below its design capacity at all facilities. As long as DJJ sustains these current numbers, its remaining six facilities can safely absorb Murphysboro and Joliet's populations.
The Governor's proposal is about more than just balancing the state's budget. By closing Joliet and Murphysboro, the Governor will help DJJ continue to establish a more rehabilitative, cost-effective juvenile justice system that leads to positive outcomes for troubled youth. This includes permitting DJJ to use its limited resources to increase programming both inside and outside the facilities that is geared toward returning youth safely and successfully to their communities. In this respect, JHA commends the Governor and DJJ for two recent initiatives: DJJ's Pilot Aftercare Program, which is designed to help incarcerated youth succeed by working with them and their families from entry to release, and IYC-Pere Marquette's transformation into a step-down facility, which will provide youth with the skills they need to reenter society.
In supporting the Governor's proposal to close Murphysboro and Joliet, JHA recognizes that it will be a major undertaking to ensure that these closures happen safely and efficiently. Reassigning and relocating the youth will take time, careful insight, and preparation. It is also critical that the Governor does all he can to re-assign staff, who JHA knows are caring and dedicated public servants. Based on our regular monitoring of the state's juvenile facilities, JHA is confident that the Governor and DJJ can make this transition successful and productive for staff, incarcerated youth, and ultimately all of Illinois.