WBEZ | Youth prisons http://www.wbez.org/tags/youth-prisons Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Illinois counting on Cook County program to fix juvenile parole http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-counting-cook-county-program-fix-juvenile-parole-110308 <p><p>Almost nine out of every 10 kids who spend time in Illinois youth prisons end up going back to prison within three years of their release.</p><p>That high number - 86 percent, according to a report the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice prepared for the federal government last year - costs the state millions of dollars every year. And it&rsquo;s a factor in the violence perpetrated and suffered by young people in Chicago every summer.</p><p>Everybody involved agrees that a key solution is getting these kids a special kind of help so they can stay out of prison. Something more than parole like adults get.</p><p>The state of Illinois is counting on a small pilot program in Cook County to lead the way in fixing juvenile parole.</p><p>The program is called Aftercare. The name gives an idea of all that&rsquo;s intended: counseling, help with school and getting off drugs.</p><p>Officials are rushing to expand the Aftercare pilot statewide. But after three years running, there&rsquo;s no evidence the Cook County pilot is working.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="200" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/sMEkZ/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="610"></iframe></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aftercare.png" style="height: 484px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="This map shows the 10 counties across Illinois with the highest number of juvenile parolees who are sent back to prison. " /></div><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;He&#39;s a pretty good kid he just needs some support&#39;</span></p><p>Adam is a 16-year-old kid who lives with his mom and four younger siblings in K-Town, a rough section of Chicago&rsquo;s West Side.</p><p>Last March he was sent to the youth prison in St. Charles, Illinois on a gun charge. He got out in November, then was sent back briefly for a parole violation. When I first met him in March of this year he had been out for two months, was going to school and passing his drug tests.</p><p>He and his mom, Debra Wright, say for Adam that is a very big deal. And Adam thinks he can keep it up.</p><p>Adam is one of the kids on Aftercare, and that means instead of a parole officer he gets an aftercare specialist.</p><p>Like a regular parole officer,&nbsp; the specialist&rsquo;s job is to make sure Adam is doing what he&rsquo;s supposed to do, and staying out of trouble. But the specialist is also responsible for helping him do that: finding drug counseling to keep him from smoking weed; helping him get to school and constantly checking up on him&mdash;at least once a week.</p><p>Adam says he feels like he has two moms, his aftercare specialist and his parent.</p><p>Debra Wright is glad there is someone else around to keep Adam in line.</p><p>&ldquo;She&rsquo;s a good role model and she&rsquo;s not trying to be hard on him and send him back. Because you get a lot of - excuse my french - dickheads as parole officers,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Adam is a good example of the challenging kids that the Aftercare program is trying to reach.</p><p>He has a long history of trouble with the law. Adam says he got sent to solitary confinement 15 times as punishment in the nine months he was inside. And he once spent four days in solitary for punching a guard in the face.</p><p>Besides his Aftercare specialist, Adam also gets support from Edwin Day, a youth and family advocate for the non-profit Youth Outreach Services. Day and a handful of others work with about 30 Aftercare kids who live on the West Side of Chicago.</p><p>Adam&rsquo;s Aftercare specialist is supposed to identify the kinds of help he needs, and then Day uses his community connections to help get it for Adam.</p><p>Day says Adam can be a handful at times, &ldquo;but he&rsquo;s a pretty good kid &hellip; he just needs some support.&rdquo;</p><p>And Day is a crucial part of that support. While the Aftercare specialists have more than 40 kids on their caseloads - almost twice the number they&rsquo;re supposed to have - advocates like Day have about seven.</p><p>The Youth Outreach program isn&rsquo;t expanding along with Aftercare, so most of the state workers on the front lines will be trying to reach kids with troubled pasts without any such support.</p><p>Experts say the result so far has been a program with good intentions but poor results.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;Our young people are in a state of emergency right now&#39;</span></p><p>In April, dozens of people on the West Side of Chicago gathered for a grim vigil.</p><p>They were marking the anniversary of a teenager&rsquo;s death, killed a few years before.</p><p>There are a million reasons why fixing the support system for kids getting out of prison is important: bringing down the number of kids who get sent back would mean big savings, for one thing,&nbsp; and the state is betting millions on this restructuring.</p><p>But the major reason is scenes like this prayer vigil. The kids who cycle through Illinois youth prisons are picked up out of violent neighborhoods, locked up for a time and then sent home to those same chaotic places. And when they get back they are more likely to commit another crime.</p><p>&ldquo;The youth that we get &hellip; they&rsquo;re involved with the violence. Either they&rsquo;ve been shot or their friends have been shot,&rdquo; Day said.</p><p>I really wanted to go out with the Aftercare specialists who are on the front lines of this new program. I spent months trying to arrange it, but the Department of Juvenile Justice refused to let me see them at work.</p><p>So I ended up riding along with Day as he did the rounds in Austin and Lawndale one afternoon in May instead.</p><p>&ldquo;Our young people are in a state of emergency right now, and ... we&rsquo;re trying to advocate against the violence,&rdquo; Day said.</p><p>It&rsquo;s important to remember that Day and his organization represent Aftercare at its absolute best. Instead of one person helping and checking up on them, these kids have two. And thanks to the organization he works for, Day has immediate access to mentoring, counseling and drug treatment.</p><p>Even still, what I saw when I went out with Day was a Sisyphean task. None of the kids who we went to check on were where they were supposed to be - each technically in violation of parole.</p><p>At one point, Day saw one of his Aftercare kids on the street, skipping school. Day flagged him down and gave him a ride to class, but when we got there the kid didn&rsquo;t want to get out. He said at one in the afternoon, it was too late to be worth going to school.</p><p>Day was unfazed.</p><p>At the very least, he said, the time he spent driving the kid to and from school was one hour where the young man couldn&rsquo;t be the victim of a crime or be arrested. And he counts every minute like that as a step to a potential breakthrough. Day wants the kids on Aftercare to know that he cares about them and isn&rsquo;t going anywhere.</p><p>During the drive to school, the truant he picked up said he didn&rsquo;t want to go to school because he is too far behind. As a 17-year-old reading at a third-grade level, he says he thinks it will be too much work to catch up.</p><p>It is this kind of hopelessness that Aftercare specialists will have to battle in order to be successful, and that is a hard, long fight. But experts say there are ways the Department of Juvenile Justice could be smarter in its strategy to make it easier.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;A plane that we&#39;re building as we fly it&#39;</span></p><p>Elizabeth Clarke is the head of the Juvenile Justice Initiative.</p><p>She has been working on improving Illinois juvenile justice since before the Department of Juvenile Justice even existed.</p><p>In fact, she helped create it back in 2006.</p><p>Clarke says fixing parole has been a key goal of the agency since it began eight years ago. And she&rsquo;s frustrated they still haven&rsquo;t gotten it right.</p><p>The Cook County pilot program started in the spring of 2011, but the department hasn&rsquo;t done a single study of its effectiveness&mdash;or at least not one that it&rsquo;s willing to share with the public.</p><p>What numbers are available do not paint a positive picture.</p><p>A key goal of Aftercare is to reduce the number of youth sent back to prison because of a parole violation. But the number of Cook County youth sent back actually went up in the first year of the program.</p><p>&ldquo;Any measure of success depends first and foremost on decreasing the rate of return. If we still have a 53 percent return, then whatever that Cook pilot is doing is not having a positive impact,&rdquo; Clarke said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/djjadmissiongraphswithsfy2012-2.png" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Source: David E. Olson, Loyola University" /></div><p>DJJ&rsquo;s new director Candice Jones says she respects Clarke, but she doesn&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s fair to judge the Cook County pilot program based on a statewide figure.</p><p>Jones took over DJJ at the end of January, and she says she wants her regime to be more open and transparent.</p><p>And she says there aren&rsquo;t any Aftercare-specific numbers to show whether it&rsquo;s working.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Clarke and other experts I talked to complained about the department&rsquo;s lack of transparency. But Jones protests that she isn&rsquo;t hiding information, there just isn&rsquo;t any data to share.</p><p>&ldquo;We know based on what other people are doing that these are the right models,&rdquo; Jones said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s always best to be able to wait until you have the best, clearest data to make decisions but we don&rsquo;t always have that luxury. You have to make some real-time decisions about a plane that we&rsquo;re building as we fly it.&quot;</p><p>The Aftercare model is the darling of juvenile justice advocates throughout the country and it has been around for a long time.</p><p>Jones, and just about everyone else I talked to, pointed to Pennsylvania&rsquo;s Aftercare program as a model to emulate.</p><p>Kids in Pennsylvania go back to prison at a rate of about 22 percent. In Illinois it&rsquo;s 53 percent if you count the kids who go back to youth prisons. The number jumps to 86 percent if you include those who end up in adult prisons too.</p><p>Though Pennsylvania is the Aftercare model, its program is fundamentally different from the one Illinois is implementing.</p><p>For the most part Pennsylvania eschews youth prison altogether. Their Aftercare treatment starts as soon as a kid is adjudicated &nbsp;and gets sent off to group homes with targeted treatment. They say those placement facilities are the core of Aftercare.</p><p>Illinois doesn&rsquo;t have anything like that.</p><p>John Maki, the director of prison watchdog John Howard Association, says he agrees with the concept of Aftercare, but that so far, Illinois is doing it wrong.</p><p>&ldquo;At a certain level words don&rsquo;t matter, it&rsquo;s about what is a system set up to do?&rdquo; Maki said. &ldquo;And this is a system that by-and-large teaches kids to live in prison and teaches kids how to re-offend.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;It&#39;s all stick, there&#39;s no carrot&#39;</span></p><p>The only evaluation of the Cook County pilot that has ever been done was by researchers at the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Chapin Hall&mdash;and that was just how it works, not if it does.</p><p>And the study exposes serious flaws.</p><p>It&rsquo;s no surprise that some of the biggest needs of kids on a slippery slope back to prison are substance abuse treatment, education and mentoring. But researchers note that in most of the cases they looked at, Aftercare specialists failed to connect kids to these services.&nbsp;</p><p>And many of the recorded care plans look an awful lot like adult parole:&nbsp; Lots of drug testing and supervision. Much less mentoring or help with school.</p><p>&ldquo;Aftercare is, despite the rhetoric of it being about providing services, it&rsquo;s all stick, there&rsquo;s no carrot,&rdquo; Maki said.</p><p>However, Maki is heartened by the moves Jones has made so far on Aftercare.</p><p>And Jones says she&rsquo;s making those changes because she&rsquo;s knows the stakes.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got a lot of work to do and we have a tiny little team of people doing it and we have to do it right,&quot; Jones said. &quot;Any fumbles, any missteps can undercut the foundation of what really is the right thing to do.&rdquo;</p><p>The stakes are even clearer about 10 miles west of Jones&rsquo;s downtown Chicago office.</p><p>The last stop on Edwin Day&rsquo;s rounds is the home of Adam, the 16 year old from K-Town. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s been about six weeks since I sat down with Adam and his mom, and Day says since then, things have taken a bad turn.</p><p>Adam has stopped going to school, he&rsquo;s been smoking weed and his mom says he&rsquo;s back out on the street selling drugs.</p><p>When we get to Adam&rsquo;s house, he&rsquo;s not in. Day tries his cell phone and Adam picks up, but when he realizes who it is he mumbles something and hangs up. When Day calls again it goes straight to voicemail.</p><p>Again Day takes a positive view: he&rsquo;s glad to know Adam is still able to pick up his phone, it means he hasn&rsquo;t been arrested.</p><p>Even though he knows Adam is probably out committing crimes, as long as he is still out of prison, there is still time for Day to reach him.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 11:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-counting-cook-county-program-fix-juvenile-parole-110308 New report says inadequate staffing allowed for sexual misconduct in youth prisons http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/new-report-says-inadequate-staffing-allowed-sexual-misconduct-youth-prisons <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IDJJ_Admin_550_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A report from an outside consultant says inadequate staffing and oversight led to high rates of sexual abuse in Illinois youth prisons.</p><p>Arthur Bishop, director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, said the department is hiring more workers &ndash; but he said the department is going to need a budget increase next year to get staffing to correct levels.</p><p>The report, released Wednesday, was prepared by Kinsale Management Consulting, a California-based firm that previously investigated sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. It was commissioned by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice after a June report by The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics ranked Illinois as one of the worst in the country for sexual victimization in youth prisons.</p><p>The study credits the department for responding quickly to that ranking, but it also says some of the state&rsquo;s measures to prevent sexual misconduct are outdated and insufficient.</p><p>Specifically, the report calls on the department to update its camera system, hire more prison staff and do a better job of investigating allegations.</p><p>Department of Juvenile Justice Director Arthur Bishop said they&rsquo;ve already hired 25 new workers, but he couldn&rsquo;t give specifics about how many more they need or when the hires would occur.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t give you an exact number,&quot; he said, &quot;but I can tell you without hesitation that we are looking to fill all critical vacancies.&quot;</p><p>Bishop also said the department is going to spend almost $2 million on new cameras.</p><p>The department has until 2017 to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, and will soon be operating under a federal consent decree with regards to its education and mental health care. Both of those will likely mean more staff, and more money.</p><p>Bishop couldn&rsquo;t give an estimate of how much the total improvements will cost.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re hoping that the General Assembly, when our budget comes about, will work with us on not only meeting these needs of staffing but also the upcoming consent decree requirements and the [Prison Rape Elimination Act] requirements that have some impact on staffing ratios,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The report was conducted over a 60-day period. It involved a review of the department&rsquo;s records and a visit to each of Illinois&rsquo; six youth prisons, where researchers interviewed staff, former workers and youth.</p><p>One of the key findings of the report was that the federal survey was likely much more accurate than the department&rsquo;s own sexual abuse figures.</p><p>While the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice&rsquo;s internal records indicated a sexual victimization rate of .006 percent, the BJS survey indicated a rate of 15.4 percent, more than 2,500 times higher.</p><p>The consultant&#39;s report made public Wednesday blamed this inconsistency on victim underreporting, inadequate record keeping and failure of staff to report sexual misconduct.</p><p>In fact, researchers noted a &ldquo;code of silence&rdquo; among some prison staff members who told researchers they would not tell on their fellow employees if they knew about misconduct.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him on twitter @pksmid.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Oct 2013 16:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/new-report-says-inadequate-staffing-allowed-sexual-misconduct-youth-prisons Report: Youth prison in Chicago has inadequate teacher staffing http://www.wbez.org/news/report-youth-prison-chicago-has-inadequate-teacher-staffing-108008 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chi(1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The educational staffing at the Illinois youth prison in Chicago is &ldquo;grossly deficient,&rdquo; according to a report released this week.</p><p>The report is the result of a monitoring visit prison watchdog group The John Howard Association made to Illinois Youth Center Chicago on January 29 of this year.</p><p>During its visit the group found the prison&rsquo;s student-to-staff ratio to be lacking, particularly in its mental health classes.</p><p>&ldquo;Lack of educational and vocational resources for justice-involved youth represents an endemic, enduring problem,&rdquo; the study reads.</p><p>According to the report, the Chicago youth prison has made strides in helping prepare youth to return to their communities. And report author Jenny Vollen-Katz praised the facility&rsquo;s leadership for its early school enrollment program, which helps jailed kids return to school immediately after being released.</p><p>But she said the youth prison continues to struggle with educational programming, family engagement and its parole system.</p><p>&ldquo;Absent access to vocational and educational programming &hellip; [it is] unreasonable to expect youth to succeed at reentry upon leaving [the youth prison],&rdquo; Vollen-Katz wrote in the report.</p><p>According to the report, educational staffing at Chicago does not meet minimum state standards.</p><p>At the time of John Howard&rsquo;s visit, the Chicago facility had a ratio of one teacher for every 27 special education students. State law requires a limit of 15 special education students per teacher.</p><p>&ldquo;These are kids that need help and they qualify for getting help and to be placed in classrooms where the student teacher ratio is that high means they&rsquo;re not getting the kind of attention they need to learn,&rdquo; Vollen-Katz said.</p><p>During the visit Vollen-Katz said she saw one classroom staffed by a guard rather than a teacher. Students were forced to stay in the classroom for at least an hour even though there was no educational instruction or reading going on, Vollen-Katz said.</p><p>According to the report, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice told The John Howard Association that staffing levels had improved at the Chicago facility after the group&rsquo;s visit.</p><p>The report calls those improvements promising, but Vollen-Katz said safeguards are needed to make sure adequate staffing levels are maintained consistently.</p><p>Beyond staffing, the report criticizes the Chicago prison for failing to provide any training or education to youth&nbsp; who have already obtained their high school diploma or GED.</p><p>Instead, those youth prisoners are left &ldquo;idle, frustrated and disengaged,&rdquo; according to John Howard researchers. .</p><p>Vollen-Katz called for more spending on educational programming and staffing because, she said, education and training help reduce recidivism.</p><p>Officials with the Department of Juvenile Justice declined a phone interview for this story and did not provide comment before deadline.</p></p> Wed, 10 Jul 2013 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/report-youth-prison-chicago-has-inadequate-teacher-staffing-108008 Illinois ranks 5th in decreasing number of incarcerated youth http://www.wbez.org/illinois-ranks-5th-decreasing-number-incarcerated-youth-107764 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chi_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois decreased its number of incarcerated youth by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a report released this week.</p><p>The study, by the National Juvenile Justice Network, found that Illinois had the fifth largest decrease of incarcerated youth in the country during that span.</p><p>The director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Arthur Bishop, said the report highlights a comprehensive effort by the state.</p><p>&ldquo;We work to prevent youth on the front end from coming in, we work diligently to prepare them to to return to their communities and then we work diligently to keep them in their communities,&rdquo; Bishop said.</p><p>Bishop said what was most essential was that all parts of the government who deal with youth crime worked together to keep kids out of jails and prisons.</p><p>The study&rsquo;s authors and Bishop both pointed to a program called Redeploy Illinois as a major driver of the decrease in the number of incarcerated youth.</p><p>Redeploy was created by the legislature in 2004 and provides financial incentives for 28 Illinois counties to find alternatives to incarceration.</p><p>The program&rsquo;s funding is set to double in the next state budget.</p><p>Elizabeth Clarke, the head of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, said that expansion is one reason she expects the youth prison population to continue to drop.</p><p>She said the national report is encouraging but said Illinois needs to do even more to keep kids out of its jails and prisons.</p><p>&ldquo;Incarceration for juveniles is just a failed public policy and we need to shift our dollars and investment to local community services,&rdquo; Clarke said.</p><p>Finding alternatives to incarceration is better for kids, communities and the state&rsquo;s budget, Clarke said.</p><p>Until now Redeploy Illinois cost the state about $2.5 million per year.</p><p>That&rsquo;s compared to the budget for the entire Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, which is more than $120 million every year.</p><p>Clarke called the amount spent on Redeploy a &ldquo;ridiculously low amount of money.&rdquo;</p><p>The juvenile justice report, called The Comeback States, focused on the nine states that have made the greatest strides in cutting their number of incarcerated youth.</p><p>The state with the largest decrease was Connecticut, which cut its total in half.</p><p>According to the report, much of Illinois&rsquo; success in decreasing its youth prison population this past decade simply made up for a dramatic increase in the number of incarcerated youth in the years before.</p><p>Between 1985 and 2000 Illinois had the second largest surge in its number of incarcerated youth in the country.</p><p>The number of kids behind bars in Illinois doubled during that 15 year span.</p><p>Sarah Bryer, the report&rsquo;s co-author, said the reversal of that trend in Illinois is &ldquo;a great example&rdquo; of the importance of having a mix of policies dedicated to keeping youth out of prison.</p><p>&ldquo;Illinois was very explicit in trying to do better by kids and keeping them out of state-run facilities,&rdquo; Bryer said.</p><p>Bryer called incarceration a &ldquo;very expensive resource&rdquo; that states don&rsquo;t use wisely.</p><p>Besides the costs, Bryer said there is good reason to try and keep young people out of prison.</p><p>&ldquo;State facilities are largely ineffective. Kids go into state facilities, they are exposed to violence, they are separated from their families and their communities,&rdquo; Bryer said. &ldquo;Once they&rsquo;re incarcerated it&rsquo;s very hard for them to get back on track in the community.&rdquo;</p><p>Youth prison director Bishop said the state has cut the number of kids in its prison facilities by almost 60 percent since 2000.</p></p> Wed, 19 Jun 2013 09:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/illinois-ranks-5th-decreasing-number-incarcerated-youth-107764 Experts say Illinois youth prisons need independent ombudsman http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-illinois-youth-prisons-need-independent-ombudsman-107629 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chi.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission says Gov. Pat Quinn must act quickly to protect kids in the state&rsquo;s youth prisons.</p><p>Retired Judge George Timberlake says incarcerated youth need to be able to complain safely to an independent government employee.</p><p>&ldquo;When we created the Department of Juvenile Justice, one of the fundamental ideas was an ombudsman, and that didn&rsquo;t happen. So that&rsquo;s something that can be almost immediately created,&rdquo; Timberlake said.</p><p>Timberlake called for the governor to act after a recent federal report found that Illinois was among the worst states in the nation when it comes to reports by young people of sexual victimization..</p><p>According to the report, based on surveys collected from inmates last year, about 15 percent of kids in Illinois youth prisons reported being sexually victimized while inside.</p><p>Nationally the average was about 10 percent.</p><p>In an emailed statement, a spokesman for Gov. Quinn wrote that &ldquo;a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of the agency and its procedures has been ordered.&rdquo;</p><p>That review will include an outside expert visiting every youth prison and interviewing incarcerated youth.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the key issues to be included in the comprehensive evaluation is the creation of an independent oversight body or ombudsman for investigations into allegations of abuse,&rdquo; according to the statement.</p><p>But Timberlake says the governor shouldn&rsquo;t wait for recommendations from outside experts, he should deploy an ombudsman now.</p><p>Timberlake and other juvenile justice advocates say an ombudsman would help fix a grievance process that right now forces kids in youth prisons to file complaints with the prison&rsquo;s leadership.</p><p>John Maki, head of the prison watchdog John Howard Association, says that essentially means incarcerated youth are forced to &ldquo;complain about the guards to the guards.&rdquo;</p><p>Department of Juvenile Justice Director Arthur Bishop called the report&rsquo;s findings serious and disturbing and said he is taking immediate action.</p><p>That includes creating a 24-hour hotline for youth to call with concerns, and a youth commission that will help advise him.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to make sure that our youth are safe and make sure that our youth have a voice, and that&rsquo;s very important that we find out where was the voice of the youth?&rdquo; Bishop said.</p><p>Jennifer Florent, a department&rsquo;s spokeswoman, wrote in an email that &ldquo;the creation of an ombudsman is one of the items that we will be discussing with the experts.&rdquo;</p><p>At the end of the day Monday, Florent said experts for the new panel DJJ is creating had not yet been confirmed,&nbsp; so she could not provide names to WBEZ.</p><p>Maki says prisons are ripe for the kind of sexual abuse identified in the report, and one way to prevent sexual victimization from happening is to allow an outside group or individual unfettered access to youth prisons and the kids inside them.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter.</em></p></p> Tue, 11 Jun 2013 07:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-illinois-youth-prisons-need-independent-ombudsman-107629 Illinois near the top in reports of sexual abuse of youth prisoners http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-near-top-reports-sexual-abuse-youth-prisoners-107590 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IDJJ_Admin_550.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new federal report says Illinois is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to youth reports of sexual abuse in prison.</p><p>Researchers with the Bureau of Justice Statistics say that more than 15 percent of kids in Illinois youth prisons reported they had been sexually victimized while inside.</p><p>Nationwide, that figure was about 10 percent.</p><p>At a recently closed youth prison in southwest suburban Joliet, about one in five youth reported being victimized by staff.</p><p>John Maki of the prison watchdog John Howard Association says these numbers are &ldquo;shameful,&rdquo; and they show that the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice has to scrutinize its entire system.</p><p>Maki says after the Joliet youth prison closed earlier this year, staff members were transferred to three other youth prisons throughout Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;On some level there was a culture that permitted this to happen, and again I mean Joliet is closed, the staff are all moved to other facilities. I think the thing we need to focus on now is to make sure that culture died at Joliet. This cannot happen again.&rdquo; Maki says. &ldquo;People should be held accountable.&rdquo;</p><p>In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice says they are currently reviewing the report and that the department takes all allegations of sexual abuse seriously.</p><p>The 65-page report, released yesterday, is based on surveys with youth prisoners conducted between February and September of 2012 in 273 state-owned or -operated juvenile facilities and 53 locally or privately operated facilities that held adjudicated youth under state contract. The survey limited reporting by youth to incidents occurring in the last 12 months.</p><p>According to that survey, Illinois is one of four states that could be considered to have a high rate of sexual victimization in its youth prisons.</p><p>According to the report, about 2.5 percent of juveniles nationawide reported a sexual incident involving another youth last year, and 7.7 percent reported an incident involving staff members.</p><p>While nationally most victims of staff sexual misconduct reported there was no use of physical force or threats, at the Joliet youth prison the majority of victims reported being victimized by staff through the use of force.</p><p>All but one of the facilities in Illinois - the youth prison in St. Charles - had rates of reported sexual victimization that were higher than the national average.</p><p>The survey, mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, defines sexual victimization as any unwanted sexual activity between youth and all sexual activity between youth and adult staff.</p><p>In an emailed statement, Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the union that represents corrections staff, wrote that the work of the 1,000 men and women in the youth prisons should not be overshadowed by allegations against a few.</p><p>But the John Howard Association&rsquo;s Maki says the tendency to &ldquo;single out bad actors,&rdquo; is the wrong response to this report.</p><p>&ldquo;With these levels of sexual assault it is not one bad apple, it is a bad barrel. Something has gone wrong here in the Department of Juvenile Justice where something like this could happen,&rdquo; Maki said.</p><p>He says that is a sign that the department needs to allow more access to its prisons.</p><p>Right now, Maki says, his group is not allowed to conduct confidential interviews of inmates or to come for unscheduled visits.</p><p>He says without that kind of access for John Howard, or another oversight group, there is no way to be sure this kind of abuse won&rsquo;t happen again.</p><p>He also says it is an indication that the department needs to fix an&nbsp; &ldquo;inadequate&rdquo; grievance process.</p><p>If a youth prisoner has a problem with a guard, he or she has to file a written complaint that is then reviewed by prison staff members.</p><p>&ldquo;Essentially you have a defendant who is also the judge,&rdquo; Maki says.</p><p>That, according to Maki, means it is possible that a person in a youth prison could be reporting sexual abuse to his or her abuser or&nbsp;&nbsp; someone who was complicit in the abuse.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter.</em></p></p> Fri, 07 Jun 2013 11:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-near-top-reports-sexual-abuse-youth-prisoners-107590