Quinn Issues Order on Youth Prisons

April 1, 2010

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AP/Seth Perlman
Governor Pat Quinn has signed an executive order to begin the process of merging Illinois' youth prisons with the Department of Children and Family Services. This comes less than a week after some lawmakers asked Quinn to slow down the merger.

Quinn's order doesn't actually merge the two agencies, but it directs his staff to get to work on legislation that would do so. The governor says youth prisons should be under DCFS control to "best advance a culture change from a punitive approach toward a rehabilitative, treatment-focused model of care."

The order says Quinn wants to work with youth prison employee unions, lawmakers and advocates. The advocates have greeted Quinn's plan as a generally positive step, though the union and some lawmakers have questioned it. The Department of Juvenile Justice became a stand-alone agency less than four years ago, separating from the adult prison system. The transition has been rocky.

Almost three dozen lawmakers sent Quinn a letter just last week asking him to hold off on the merger until they can meet with him in mid-April. A Quinn spokeswoman notes that lawmakers were briefed on the proposal last month, and says Quinn has always wanted this to be a collaborative, thorough process.