WBEZ | juvenile justice http://www.wbez.org/tags/juvenile-justice Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Cook County demands payment from state for kids left waiting in jail http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-demands-payment-state-kids-left-waiting-jail-111702 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/JTDC Juvenile 4_WBEZ_Bill Healy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For the first time ever, Cook County is sending a bill to the State of Illinois for the cost of holding state wards left waiting at the juvenile jail by the Department of Children and Family Services.</p><p>The decision to demand reimbursement is part of a larger push back by the county against the human and financial costs of the failures of the state&rsquo;s child welfare agency.</p><p>It comes after a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-child-welfare-system-leaves-kids-stuck-jail-111576">recent WBEZ investigation</a> found that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) routinely leaves hundreds of kids stuck behind bars for weeks, or even months, after a judge has said they can go home. Because they are wards of the state, the kids can&rsquo;t leave the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center until the department finds them proper placement.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/federal-judge-takes-action-kids-left-jail-after-wbez-investigates-111680">Federal Judge takes action on kids left in jail by DCFS</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;The message is that we don&rsquo;t care about them, and that we think their liberty isn&rsquo;t an important issue. And I think that&rsquo;s a terrible message to send to young people,&rdquo; said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.</p><p>And Preckwinkle said it&rsquo;s a financial burden for the county.</p><p>&ldquo;The obligation of every executive is to run their unit of government to the best of your ability. And that means you don&rsquo;t cost-shift your financial obligations and burdens,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Preckwinkle said the impact on children is her main concern, &ldquo;but the money is not a trivial matter either.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Preckwinkle said she is glad to hear that outgoing Cook County Juvenile Detention Center administrator Earl Dunlap is sending a bill to the state.</p><p>&ldquo;And I&rsquo;d be happy to second the motion,&rdquo; Preckwinkle said.</p><p>The invoice being sent to DCFS covers just two months&mdash;December and January&mdash;and it comes to $232,750.</p><p>The invoice is for 41 DCFS wards who spent a combined 665 days in jail after a judge told them they were free to go.</p><p>The juvenile jail is in Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele&rsquo;s district. And he recognizes that at that rate, the cost could amount to $1.5 million a year.</p><p>&ldquo;So that&rsquo;s a huge burden to Cook County and its taxpayers,&rdquo; Steele said.</p><p>Along with the invoice is <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/258641119/Letter-from-Earl-Dunlap-to-DCFS" target="_blank">a letter from juvenile jail administrator Dunlap to DCFS Director George Sheldon</a>. In it, Dunlap blasts the department for the &ldquo;agency&rsquo;s willful disregard to juveniles&rsquo; constitutional rights.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Prolonged stays at [the juvenile jail] for children awaiting DCFS placement &hellip; can cause lasting damage to a youth,&rdquo; Dunlap wrote.</p><p>Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans oversees the juvenile jail. He said he&rsquo;s not particularly concerned about which agency foots the bill.</p><p>&ldquo;The counties pull from the same taxpayers that pay the taxes on a statewide basis, so the main thing is that we don&rsquo;t want taxpayers to have to pay for anything unnecessarily,&rdquo; Evans said.</p><p>WBEZ interviewed Evans in late February. He said on the day of the interview there were 12 state wards in the juvenile jail waiting on DCFS.</p><p>&ldquo;Many of them are suffering already &hellip; many of them, they&rsquo;ve been abused and neglected on one side and then they engage in some delinquent conduct on the other side. And so they&rsquo;re already subjected to trauma in many instances and having them stay longer in a place they shouldn&rsquo;t be in just exacerbates the problem,&rdquo; Evans said.</p><p>DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach says his department has not yet received the invoice. But he&rsquo;s acknowledged the issue, and said he believes the agency&rsquo;s new leader will bring stability to the department.</p><p>&ldquo;The governor has made it a priority to help turn the agency around, and that&rsquo;s bringing someone in like Director George Sheldon &hellip;&nbsp; to help us get the job done,&rdquo; Flach said.</p><p>Cook County&rsquo;s demand for repayment comes at a particularly bad time for the state government. Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling for massive cuts to close a multi-billion dollar budget gap.</p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">Patrick Smith</a> is a WBEZ producer and reporter.</em></p></p> Sun, 15 Mar 2015 06:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-demands-payment-state-kids-left-waiting-jail-111702 Illinois' child welfare system leaves kids stuck in jail http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-child-welfare-system-leaves-kids-stuck-jail-111576 <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/Screen%20Shot%202015-02-17%20at%207.25.53%20PM.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Youth at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center at an event in 2014. A WBEZ investigation found that kids spend weeks, or even months, in the jail because DCFS can’t find a place for them to live. (Photo courtesy of Bill Healy)" /></div><p>There&rsquo;s a kid in the Cook County juvenile jail right now who isn&rsquo;t supposed to be there. A judge ordered his release on January 29.</p><p>Because he is a juvenile, WBEZ isn&rsquo;t using his name, but his problem is not unique. Even after a judge has ordered their release, lots of kids wait weeks, even months to be picked up.</p><p>Their deadbeat guardian is the State of Illinois, and these kids are stuck in juvenile jail because the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) can&rsquo;t find a place to put them.</p><p>A WBEZ analysis of data from Cook County found that in the three-year period between October 2011 and October 2014, there were 344 instances when kids waited a week or more in the jail for DCFS to come pick them up.</p><p>Last year the longest wait was 190 days&mdash;more than half the year.</p><p>And it&rsquo;s not just that there are a lot of young people waiting. They are waiting specifically because of the failures of DCFS.</p><p>Kids get sent to the juvenile jail for a number of reasons. Some are waiting for trial, others are serving a punishment. No matter who they are or why they&rsquo;re there, kids can&rsquo;t leave unless someone comes to take custody of them.</p><p>The data doesn&rsquo;t account for how many of the 344 times involved the same kid held more than once, so to check on daily counts, we asked jail staff to give us a snapshot of every kid who was waiting to be picked up. On the day we asked, Oct. 16, 2014, there were 19 kids in the jail who had been ordered released by a judge and were just waiting on a guardian to pick them up.</p><p>Thirteen were waiting for DCFS.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it sends a very disturbing message to a child to say there&rsquo;s no reason for you to be held in detention, but we&rsquo;re not working hard enough, or we&rsquo;re not making you enough of a priority to find a place for you to go,&rdquo; said Bruce Boyer, the director of the Civitas Childlaw Clinic at Loyola University Chicago.</p><p>&rdquo;We&rsquo;re talking about children that a judge has looked at their case and said, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s no risk here. This child should be at home or in a community based setting, whether it&rsquo;s a foster home or somewhere else.&rsquo; So, that&rsquo;s incredibly disruptive to the child,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Antoine Brown has lived through that disruption.</p><p>Brown is 25 now and lives in Marion, Illinois. But when he was 14, Brown spent about six months in Cook County&rsquo;s juvenile jail waiting for DCFS to find him a bed.</p><p>&ldquo;It kinda like crushes your spirit so you&rsquo;ll be like ... I don&rsquo;t care anymore so I&rsquo;m just gonna act out and do whatever I want to do,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hell. I mean, if you&rsquo;re not a cool person then you get picked on.&rdquo;</p><p>Jennifer Vollen Katz with prison watchdog John Howard Association says Brown&rsquo;s frustration is typical for kids stuck in jail.</p><p>&ldquo;You will see the behavior begin to deteriorate, because that&rsquo;s just an incredibly high level of frustration for a young person to grapple with,&rdquo; Vollen Katz said.</p><p>Vollen Katz says that&rsquo;s especially bad because this is a population at a crucial point. The choices they&mdash;and their caregivers&mdash;make will decide if these kids move on from a troubled childhood to become successful adults, or get stuck in the so-called prison pipeline.</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/Screen%20Shot%202015-02-17%20at%207.26.47%20PM.png" style="height: 411px; width: 620px;" title="The outside of the Cook County juvenile jail at Roosevelt and Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of Bill Healy)" /></div><p>&ldquo;The system has failed them time and again, so for the system to tell them, if you do this then you&rsquo;re gonna get to go and for that not to actually happen, I think is just another indicator that trusting authority is probably not a safe bet for some of these kids,&quot; Vollen Katz said. &quot;And that&rsquo;s not a message we want to be giving them.&quot;</p><p>Boyer says many of the kids forced to wait have been in the child care system for most of their lives. Often they&rsquo;ve been abused or neglected, passed from foster home to foster home.</p><p>That means most of these young men and women truly have special needs.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the needs that really require treatment, whether it&rsquo;s counseling or other kinds of services. And these are the sorts of things that frankly are just not available in the detention center,&rdquo; Boyer said.</p><p>DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach says the department is aware of kids languishing in jail, but right now the department isn&rsquo;t planning any changes to fix it.</p><p>Flach says more money would help, but the state also needs more well-run residential treatment centers able to care for these children.</p><p>Flach believes leadership from new Director George Sheldon will eventually fix problems like kids waiting in jail.</p><p>Loyola&rsquo;s Bruce Boyer says the best way to address the problem is to keep kids out of jail in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;If we had resources for dealing with kids who get into conflict with the law, that would allow us to find placements in the community for them that would be a lot less expensive than maintaining kids in a very expensive detention facility,&rdquo; Boyer said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how we break out of this cycle, but we have to figure out a way &hellip; to be more farsighted.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County estimates that it costs more than $500 a day to house one person in the juvenile temporary detention center.</p><p>And those instances when kids waited a week or more&mdash;the time they spent waiting on DCFS adds up to more than 7,300 days in Cook County juvenile jail.</p><p>That&rsquo;s almost $4 million taxpayer dollars spent over three years.</p><p>And for all that money, the kids didn&rsquo;t get special counseling or intensive therapy. Instead, they got all the wrong lessons about the justice system, and a pretty direct message that they don&rsquo;t matter. At least not enough.</p><p><em><a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">Patrick Smith</a> is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Angela Caputo also contributed reporting for this story.</em></p></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-child-welfare-system-leaves-kids-stuck-jail-111576 Morning Shift: Illinois juveniles weigh in on justice system http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-09-30/morning-shift-illinois-juveniles-weigh-justice-system <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/INSIDECCA.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We look at what some juvenile prison inmates in Illinois think about the juvenile justice system. And, we talk about Divvy&#39;s suburban expansion. Plus, former Police drummer Stewart Copeland stops by to talk about scoring the music for Ben Hur.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-prison-reform/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-prison-reform.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-prison-reform" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Illinois juveniles weigh in on justice system " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-09-30/morning-shift-illinois-juveniles-weigh-justice-system Watchdog to judges: Stop putting kids with mental health needs in prison http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-judges-stop-putting-kids-mental-health-needs-prison-108788 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/IDJJ_Admin_550_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new report from the prison watchdog John Howard Association says mental health treatment in Illinois youth prisons is so bad that judges need to stop sending kids with mental health needs to them.</p><p>The scathing report was released on Thursday. It is the latest in a series of studies that are highly critical of the care and education within the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.</p><p>The report focuses on the youth prison in Kewanee, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago. That&rsquo;s the prison where the department sends its most seriously mentally ill prisoners. It also houses juvenile sex offenders and youth who need maximum-security detainment.</p><p>John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, says the problems at Kewanee stem from the decision to combine the department&rsquo;s three &ldquo;neediest and most difficult&rdquo; groups of kids in a remote youth prison with inadequate resources.</p><p>That&rsquo;s where the problems begin. But according to the report, it is not where they end.</p><p>Report author Jennifer Vollen-Katz found Kewanee to be lacking in staffing for security, mental health and education. The result is &ldquo;an environment that is unsustainable, unsafe and counterproductive,&rdquo; Vollen-Katz wrote..</p><p>Maki says more than a third of the needed mental health positions are unfilled, even though there is money in the budget for them. That means kids are missing out on more than 250 hours of crucial mental health care every week.</p><p>Failing to fill authorized positions &ldquo;points to [a failure] at the top&rdquo; of the department, Maki said. And he is frustrated by what he sees as a lack of progress.</p><p>&ldquo;For prison systems, most of the problems they deal with are mostly beyond their control...The problems at Kewanee are problems that the agency has control over,&rdquo; Maki said.</p><p>Maki said staffing is so inadequate that judges shouldn&rsquo;t send kids with mental health needs to the department any more, because they are bound to end up in Kewanee, and they won&rsquo;t get adequate treatment there.</p><p>A clerk for Judge Michael Toomin - who heads the Cook County juvenile courts - said the judge was unavailable for an interview, but that he has no opinion on the suggestion from the John Howard Association.</p><p>Judge Sophia Hall, who presides over the juvenile court&#39;s resource section, said the key is to provide mental health services to kids before they enter the justice system. But she said that takes resources the state doesn&#39;t really have.</p><p>&quot;The question I would have, and that anyone would have, is where do we put kids with mental health issues?&quot; she asked.</p><p>The John Howard report follows a trio of reports released by the Illinois ACLU on Monday as part of a class action lawsuit against the Department of Juvenile Justice, each focusing on different areas of trouble for the juvenile justice agency.</p><p>Dr. Louis Kraus spent time in Kewanee - and all the youth prisons - talking to prisoners and observing the conditions. According to his report, Kraus found mentally ill prisoners at Kewanee spending an excessive amount of time in their cells, unable to get treatment and education because security staff was about 20 guards short of its adequate level. Kraus also found youth in specialized treatment units were spending up to 24 hours a day confined to their rooms - and the confinement rooms were filthy, with food and other debris covering the floor.</p><p>Some of the words Kraus used in his report to describe the department&rsquo;s mental health treatment, policy and staffing are: insufficient, inadequate, improper, deficient and dangerous.</p><p>The Department of Juvenile Justice has not responded to repeated requests for comment.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a></em>.</p></p> Fri, 27 Sep 2013 13:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-judges-stop-putting-kids-mental-health-needs-prison-108788 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 Chicago Symphony Orchestra makes music with teens behind bars http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-symphony-orchestra-makes-music-teens-behind-bars-106766 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/jailmusic1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s not surprising you have to get past metal detectors and put your bag through X-ray machines to get into Cook County&rsquo;s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.</p><p>But once you&rsquo;re inside, the school there looks pretty much like any other. The walls are lined with colorful signs and quizzes marked with A-pluses. There is one telling poster, though - it orders young men to walk down the hall in a straight line with their hands behind their backs.</p><p>Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians walked these same brick walls recently, to perform. Two musicians, oboist Lora Schaefer and bass player Dan Armstrong,&nbsp; worked with a group from England called Music in Prisons that paired them with 8 teen boys at the detention center.</p><p>Some of the teens had had exposure to music, but others had not. The musicians taught them the very basics on a guitar, bass, piano and drums. The teenagers wrote rap lyrics to the melodies they created.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve exercised every patient bone in my body this week &ndash; and then some,&rdquo; said Jonathan McCormick, coordinator of programs at CSO&rsquo;s Institute for Learning, Access and Training. He has a background playing tuba, but he joined the workshop, teaching the young men how to play piano.&ldquo;We often talk about with the institute transforming lives through active participation in music, and we see that in the way that the kids relate to each other, the way they relate to us,&rdquo; said McCormick.&nbsp; &ldquo;Because of music, really we&rsquo;re all just &ndash; friends.&rdquo;</p><p>One of the young performers, 16-year-old Cedric, used to play drums in church.</p><p>He gathered with the other young men in a corner, waiting for the concert to begin. Two security guards stood nearby. Most of teens at the center are awaiting trial. They&rsquo;ve been charged with everything from drug possession to murder.</p><p>Another teen, Ricky, who&rsquo;s also 16, has been in the center for almost 11 months. His only exposure to playing music before was messing around with his cousin&rsquo;s guitar.</p><p>His dad, Robert had never seen Ricky perform. He sat in the front row. &ldquo;This is the first time he&rsquo;s done it, and we were surprised like, whoa,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;My son, plays good? Ok, I want to see it to believe it.&rdquo;</p><p>Six musicians from the CSO tuned their instruments on a stage inside the Center&rsquo;s Chapel &ndash;&nbsp; a brown-bricked room with not much more than plastic chairs, while the teenagers took their places.</p><p>They played the drums, keyboards bass and guitars, while CSO musicians joined with the cello, bass, oboe and violin. Some of the kids rapped.</p><p>Over the course of four songs they explored several themes, including &ldquo;Turning Point&rdquo; and &ldquo;Hopes and Dreams,&rdquo; rapping about feeling lost, screwing up and finally finding love.</p><p>Lisa, Cedric&rsquo;s mom, could not contain herself. She cried, nodded her head and tapped her feet to the beat throughout the performance.</p><p>&ldquo;What this is (is) wonderful, I am so grateful, I am so ecstatic,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m looking at all the different instruments, and then I&rsquo;m listening to the words which were deep, real deep, sad, and then it got better. And then it got great. And so it&rsquo;s just a beautiful thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Ricky&rsquo;s dad was pleased, too. He gave Ricky a hug after the performance,</p><p>&ldquo;For me, seeing him for the first time playing instruments, he did pretty good. I mean they all did good. I&rsquo;m proud of him, he did good,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The CSO program aims to transform lives with music, but neither of the teens had a sense whether this experience would change them.</p><p>Ricky did say he was excited he got to play different instrument and learned something new.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 22 Apr 2013 09:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-symphony-orchestra-makes-music-teens-behind-bars-106766 Inside and Out: Keeping kids out of prison for good http://www.wbez.org/story/aftercare/inside-and-out-keeping-kids-out-prison-good <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//iycchicago.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Young people often face a rocky transition when&nbsp; they get out of prison and go home. Most talk about turning their lives around. And yet, in Illinois, half these kids end up back inside.</p><p>Yesterday, as part of our juvenile justice series <a href="http://www.wbez.org/insideandout">Inside and Out</a>, we met a family that appears to be giving up on their 18-year-old son because he keeps getting arrested. Their lives are too busy and stressful - they're worn down.</p><p>But today,&nbsp; we spend time with Gail, who seems to bring endless energy to the often challenging job of raising a teenage son in a city full of pitfalls.<br> <br> Gail's son has been giving her a lot of trouble over the past couple years.<br> <br> GAIL: As a parent, I wish they had a drop off center, you know when you take little newborns and you get to...&nbsp; That's how much I feel out of control with helping him.<br> <br> Gail's son, and we're not using her last name to protect his identity, he's doing his second stint at IYC Chicago, a prison for kids, and she's worried about him getting out of prison because when he came out the first time he ended up going straight back to his gang.<br> <br> GAIL: He didn't want to go back out there to his friends but it was so powerful.&nbsp; I don't want him to come home.&nbsp; I don't.&nbsp; Cause we're here now, I could be in the funeral home tomorrow.&nbsp; I'm scared for my son to come home because it's going to pull him back.&nbsp; The gangs are there to catch him, always.<br> <br> The youth prison where Gail's son is being held in Chicago is an unremarkable building on Western Avenue just south of the the Lake Street "L" line.<br> <br> The exterior is a mustard yellow metal and it kind of looks like a school gym.<br> <br> On this evening, Gail's come to a parent meeting, one of the first.<br> <br> It's a new idea Earl Merritt came up with.<br> <br> He's the superintendent, what would be called a warden in an adult facility.<br> <br> MERRITT: I think that if we're going to be successful working with our kids we have to find a way to reunite families.&nbsp; You have to put kids back with their families and I believe this is a big step toward doing that.<br> <br> Merritt's idea is kind of a shoe string budget solution to a huge problem that's gone unsolved in the department and it's this:<br> <br> Kids leaving prison all talk a good game about finishing their education, being productive, and yet they often immediately fall back into old habits.<br> <br> Within months a lot of them are back inside.<br> <br> The original plan for the 4 and a half year old deparment of juvenile justice included so called aftercare, a network of support on the outside.<br> <br> Aftercare is supposed to provide support for kids who often don't have the skills and maturity to get back in school or get a job on their own.<br> <br> But at least right now, such a safety net doesn't exist.<br> <br> So Merritt and his employees are trying to do what they can.<br> <br> MERRITT: All it takes to succeed in this is just to care. There's no great deal of skill.&nbsp; You find that when you work with people who care about what they're doing, who believe in the mission, and believe in the goals of what they're doing, the work becomes easy.<br> <br> All the employees involved in the parent's night are volunteering their time to attend the meeting after work.<br> <br> They've invited parents like Gail to come in and talk about what they'll need when their sons come home.<br> <br> The meeting is being held in the prison's visiting room.<br> <br> Noisy vending machines line one wall.<br> <br> On the other side is a table with a bucket of ice and some pops.<br> <br> There's an enormous tray of cheese cubes and rolled up cold cuts with toothpicks sticking out of them and saran wrap draped over top.<br> <br> MERRITT: I will not be disappointed if only two mothers or two fathers show up here today and listen to what we have to say, I will consider it a success.<br> <br> WILDEBOER: That's a lot of cold cuts for them to eat though.<br> <br> MERRITT: Well there's you and I after, after the things over with.<br> <br> Merritt's projection is on the money.<br> <br> Other than Gail and her ex husband, only one other parent shows up.<br> <br> But the dozen or so staff pull chairs into a circle and explain what they do.<br> <br> SOT: My name is Cara Murphy.&nbsp; I actually work with the...<br> <br> When the presentations are over Gail starts in on her long list of concerns.<br> <br> One of the main ones is her son's drug habit.<br> <br> She wants to get him into a drug program as soon as he's released but she doesn't have any money to pay for it.<br> <br> GAIL: He at sixteen is all tapped out with insurance and benefits and lifetime coverage, he's tapped out at sixteen.&nbsp; So I can't go see a counselor any more because he's used all his sessions.&nbsp; So I need something.<br> <br> MURPHY: And I think that's completely reasonable and…<br> <br> Murphy and the others tell Gail that they have a database of drug counseling providers that charge on a sliding scale and they should be able to find one in her neighborhood.<br> <br> Gail also wants a mentor for her son to combat the lure of gangs, and she wants to get him into a program to keep him busy when he gets out.<br> <br> For every concern, staff members come up with some possible solutions and they tell Gail they'll make some calls and get back to her.<br> <br> In less than an hour Gail, who knows her son better than anyone, is on the way to getting the resources she thinks her son will need to stay out of prison.<br> <br> And she says it was therapeutic to be able to talk about these issues and get some help.<br> <br> That meeting was actually last June and in the intervening six months since prison employees followed up with Gail on every issue she raised.<br> <br> But her son was released in September and it hasn't been without challenges.<br> <br> GAIL: He got released on the 15th and on the 19th he was arrested.<br> <br> Gail says he was arrested for throwing gang signs and cluttering up the sidewalk and quote, "intimidating people."<br> <br> Now she knows that her son isn't an angel but she readily admits when he breaks the law and this sounds to her like a bogus charge.<br> <br> GAIL: It almost seems like they're just gonna keep charging him, charging him, 14, 15, 16, 17 and wham we got him, 18-years-old lets send him to 26th and California, so that's the path that I believe they're on with my son, the police and task force around here.<br> <br> Gail says police also shared her son's juvenile record with her neighbors at the local CAPS meeting but she doesn't want to make a fuss over the disclosure because she doesn't want to draw more police attention to her son than he already gets.<br> <br> And Gail has had difficulty scheduling with the non-profit groups the prison staff worked so hard to hook her up with.<br> <br> Here's one example... they connected Gail with a counseling center near her house and she made an appointment to start individual, group, and family counseling but…<br> <br> GAIL: They only had interns for the sessions and my insurance only pays for certified therapists, so that fell through.<br> <br> In the end, her son was out of prison without any services from the Department of Juvenile Justice.<br> <br> GAIL: The only thing that is for sure is that his parole officer will come by once a month for five minutes, give him a drug test and that's it, and that's it.&nbsp; What is that?&nbsp; What is that?<br> <br> BISHOP: DOC parole agents, they do what they do.&nbsp; And this is what they've been trained to do is to monitor.<br> <br> Arthur Bishop is the director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, the agency that runs the prisons for kids.<br> <br> BISHOP: We're starting at ground zero in developing an aftercare program.&nbsp; There is no aftercare, true aftercare program.<br> <br> Right now, even though kids go to youth prisons, when they get out they're under adult parole.<br> <br> Those parole agents just show up to see if kids are breaking any rules, and if they are, they bring the kids back to prison.<br> <br> But, Bishop says, that's going to change.<br> <br> 7 people start training this week to become so called aftercare specialists.<br> <br> They'll be case managers so that if a kid is violating parole by say, using drugs, instead of just sending him back to prison, these new case workers will try to get the kid some treatment.<br> <br> Another 14 are scheduled to start in May.&nbsp;<br> <br> All of those employees will be working in the Chicago area but Bishop says he hopes to hire even more to work across the state.<br> <br> Robert Wildeboer, WBEZ.</p><p>And an update: Earl Merritt was recently retired as superintendent of I-Y-C Chicago.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 03 Feb 2011 13:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/aftercare/inside-and-out-keeping-kids-out-prison-good Inside and Out: Stress and fatigue can defeat families http://www.wbez.org/story/attorney/inside-and-out-stress-and-fatigue-can-defeat-families <p><p>Nearly half the kids leaving Illinois youth prisons end up back inside. They just can't make it outside. The pull of the old life is strong, and a lot of times,&nbsp; the families of young offenders just can't get them back into school, or a job, or away from the street.&nbsp; It's a wasteful cycle…for the state and especially for the lives of kids themselves.&nbsp; WBEZ's<a href="http://insideandout.chicagopublicradio.org/"> Inside and Out</a> team met a lot of these young people last year as we reported on the state's youth prisons. We're revisiting some of them this week, as we begin a look at what it would take to keep more kids out of prison for good.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>When Meechie was in the Chicago prison for kids his mother and grandmother visited him without fail.<br> <br> SHAPREE: She wants to go every weekend.<br> <br> JOSIE: That's my oldest grandbaby and he's locked up, he can't get out and I know I would want to see somebody, at least on the weekend.&nbsp; I love my baby I'm sorry.&nbsp; I just love my grandson.<br> <br> SHAPREE: That's not teaching him a lesson of him missing us and him doing what he needs to do.<br> <br> JOSIE: That's teaching him a lesson.&nbsp; I think he have learned his lesson.&nbsp; I don't want him to think that I gave up on him.&nbsp; I haven't gave up on him during the times that he was doing the stuff he wasn't supposed to be doing so I'm not giving up on him now.<br> <br> They drive a couple miles through a heavy rain on a Saturday morning from the house on Chicago's West Side to the youth prison on Western Avenue, a few lights north of the Eisenhower.<br> <br> I should say here that we're not using Meechie's last name to protect his identity because of his status as a juvenile offender.<br> <br> On the way to the prison on this morning, his mom and grandmother stop to pick up Meechie's son.<br> <br> JOSIE: Hello Foo-foo.&nbsp; Say 'hi.'<br> <br> The three of them head into the prison and spend a couple hours with Meechie in the visting room but it doesn't go well.<br> <br> Meechie is down because he recently got a ticket for a disciplinary infraction of some sort, nothing major but it's got him worried.<br> <br> The judge in his case said she'd keep him in prison if he didn't stay out of trouble.<br> <br> But in the hearing a week later, a guard from the prison calls Meechie a quote, "model youth."<br> <br> That, along with his good grades impressed the judge and she let him out.<br> <br> MEECHIE: Yeah, I was praying all night so I could come home!&nbsp; Fixin' to go to the house, get in the shower, and change my clothes and stuff.<br> <br> Back at home, on his front porch, Meechie says all the right things, the things he heard over and over from staff in prison.<br> <br> MEECHIE: Yeah I'm fenna get my GED.&nbsp; I'm probably fenna go to Malcolm X, get my GED.<br> <br> But actually going to Malcolm X city college and signing up, that doesn't happen before he's arrested on a drug charge just a couple weeks after being released.<br> <br> For whatever reason Meechie didn't go sign up on his own.<br> <br> He isn't mature enough, or determined enough, or something.<br> <br> And his family didn't help and no one else was on him to make sure he got enrolled.<br> <br> And his new case is an adult case because he's 18 now.<br> <br> On the plus side, he's not being held at the Cook County jail though he does have to spend his days there as part of a day reporting program, a way for the jail to keep an eye on him without having to actually keep him 24/7.<br> <br> But the hearings in adult court are confusing, and frustrating and often times degrading.<br> <br> At his first hearing he didn't have an attorney lined up and the judge, Gloria Chevere, berated him.<br> <br> She scheduled a hearing for a week later and said if he doesn't have a private attorney by then, she's going to take the thousand dollars he posted for bond, and she's going to give it to the first lawyer who happens to be in court that day and that will be his attorney.<br> <br> Meechie and his mom leave angry and silent, walking 20 feet apart.<br> <br> MEECHIE: I don't even want to talk about it.<br> <br> With the hearing done, Meechie is supposed to go back to the jail for the day reporting program, but his mom has had it.…she just drives him back home along with his co-defendant who also had to be in court that day.<br> <br> She drops them both off at a corner in the neighborhood, the same streets where they were arrested.<br> <br> Later at home, tired and seeming depressed, she eats a small pizza off of a paper plate and won't talk about the case.<br> <br> SHAPREE: I ain't fenna answer no questions because I don't feel like it.<br> <br> She says there's no more she can do for her son.<br> <br> Meechie's grandmother Josie is willing to talk but it seems like she too has given up.<br> <br> She's laying on the coach watching One Oh Six and park on B-E-T with two of Meechie's younger siblings.<br> <br> SOT<br> <br> She's able to provide housing for a couple of her adult children and their children.<br> <br> But her job working on case files for cancer patients who have died is depressing and the ride to work is an hour and a half on the bus each way.<br> <br> JOSIE: I'm tired.&nbsp; Disgusted.&nbsp; This is my building, I wanted to move from around here so maybe he would have a better chance in life but I can't afford to move.<br> <br> Josie says she's told the family they shouldn't call her at work anymore when Meechie is in trouble.<br> <br> JOSIE: Long as I don't know what he doing now, it don't bother me too much because I just can't take it no more.&nbsp; I don't want to see him in jail cause he's not in juvie no more, this will be the county.<br> <br> The thing about Meechie's story and his family's inability to help him, it's a very common.<br> <br> In reporting on juvenile justice I've met a number of moms who gave up on their kids, and it's usually for good reason.<br> <br> With limited time and energy, some choose to focus on the younger kids because maybe they can still be saved.<br> <br> Others have no choice because of health problems.<br> <br> I've talked to moms who are under doctor's orders to avoid stress which means avoiding their kids and their kid's problems.<br> <br> But even moms who haven't given up, they still have a hard time getting help for their kids.<br> <br> Tune in tomorrow as we hear about one mother's often frustrated efforts to get her son more support than the monthly five minute visit from a parole officer that he's getting now.<br> <br> Robert Wildeboer, WBEZ.</p></p> Wed, 02 Feb 2011 20:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/attorney/inside-and-out-stress-and-fatigue-can-defeat-families Inside and Out: Marcus' year of trouble and surprises http://www.wbez.org/story/inside-and-out-marcus-year-trouble-and-surprises <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Maura Smith Photo.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Today we're checking back&nbsp; with a talented, charismatic young man we met a year ago as part of our series on juvenile justice, <em>Inside and Out</em>.&nbsp; At the time Marcus was struggling to graduate from 8th grade after becoming involved with a gang. He kept getting suspended from school. We're using a pseudonym to protect his identity. Marcus said he didn't want the gang life anymore,&nbsp; but the constant suspensions seemed to be pushing him in that direction.&nbsp;</p><p>"I like being in school. I like learning stuff new.&nbsp; If you want me out of your school so bad why you just won't let me do what I got to do and get up out you all school the right way.&nbsp; I will walk across the stage.&nbsp; I will wave politely at you all good-bye, " he said.</p><p>Marcus never did walk across that stage. It's been a year of trouble and surprises.<br> <br> At 14 years old, Marcus started 2010 running from the law.<br> <br> He was on probation but wasn't living at home, a violation of his curfew every night if nothing else.<br> <br> He was living with his girlfriend on Chicago's Southeast side.<br> <br> On a morning in early February her mother asked him to get some milk and cereal from the store and on the way he bumped into a friend.<br> <br> MARCUS: At that time I didn't know he had a gun but as we walking he like I got the slam on me.<br> <br> WILDEBOER: You know that that's trouble, right?<br> <br> MARCUS: I know how it is around there personally so I can't just tell him like, go put that gun up because I be telling him like, go put your life in danger.&nbsp; If you ain't got a gun and somebody walk up on you and they catch you slippin' as we say, they gonna shoot and they ain't gonna miss and they ain't gonna try to miss.<br> <br> When they got to the store Marcus was getting the cereal and milk and sure enough, someone did walk up, a rival gang member of Marcus's friend.<br> <br> MARCUS:&nbsp; He said he was gonna kill my friend so my friend just, he upped the gun, he cocked it back and just got to shooting at him.&nbsp; I ran to the back of the store, hid in a closet.&nbsp; When I came out the police was in there, they was all in there.<br> <br> Marcus was taken in to custody.&nbsp;<br> <br> When I talked to him in the jail in early March, he was angry.<br> <br> MARCUS: I been trying to call my momma and tell her to come visit me so we can talk but hey, she don't wanna come.<br> <br> Marcus wants nothing more than a relationship where he and his mom talk.<br> <br> He's a fourteen year-old gang-member, or if not a member, he's certainly gang-involved, but when he talks about his mom, you remember, in many ways, he's still just a boy.<br> <br> MARCUS: My momma, she was telling me, we was gonna get it right.&nbsp; She was going to start talking to me then I think that would be better with our relationship but her not doing that is causing a big problem.<br> <br> It's a problem because when they don't talk fights end up exploding and she kicks him out of the house.<br> <br> GARCIA: After we learned that she had put him out we really had no other option but to withdraw the violation of probation because if she's not going to allow him to reside there, we can't fault him for not being home.<br> <br> Randy Garcia is Marcus's probation officer.<br> <br> He says he expects Marcus will be released at his court date on Friday but when the court date arrives his mom doesn't show up.<br> <br> She doesn't want him back at home yet.<br> <br> Marcus's dad, who's been absent most of his life, does show up and he's willing to let Marcus live with him.<br> <br> So Garcia calls Marcus' mom to get the okay because she's the legal guardian, but she refuses.<br> <br> It means Marcus won't be able to leave jail today.<br> <br> And it exposes an old rift in the family.<br> <br> GRANDMA: We can't do nothing without her.&nbsp; She tell them to keep him in jail, you know they'll keep him in jail.&nbsp; She have the last say so.<br> <br> That's Marcus' grandmother on his father's side.<br> <br> Marcus often stays at her house when his mom kicks him out.<br> <br> In fact she tried to get custody of him when his mom and her boyfriend used to beat him with an extension cord.<br> <br> GRANDMA: I told him, I said look, don't never let them whoop you naked with no extension cord.&nbsp; If you have to run out the house naked or anything, leave out and hop on the bus and get over here, and that's what he did.&nbsp; He ran out of the house in his underclothes and that's when the people picked him up on the street.<br> <br> Marcus's mom went to jail for that beating.<br> <br> She does show up for the next hearing and takes him home.<br> <br> The probation department arranged for a therapist to visit with the family in their home but Marcus' mom didn't show for the sessions.<br> <br> But it's not that she doesn't care at all.<br> <br> She's just busy.<br> <br> She is providing for four kids and a grandchild by working at a Popeye's Chicken in the suburbs, but the upshot is that they didn't get any therapy.<br> <br> Marcus ended up spending most of the year locked up.<br> <br> Probation officer Garcia tries to list off the new cases.<br> <br> For starters fingerprint results started coming back on old residential burglaries Marcus had committed.<br> <br> GARCIA: Then there was also the burglary to the auto, he'd stolen from his mother, he had taken her debit cards.&nbsp; That was a felony theft, the aggravated battery, the other residential burglary around the corner, so I mean that's four cases.<br> <br> Garcia says Marcus had a record number of cases and yet somehow, he always seemed to get an extra lifeline.<br> <br> GARCIA: He's got a way with people that not many kids do.&nbsp; He's very intelligent, I mean in custody he writes books of poetry and he calls non-stop, my office, his public defender and so by the time you're in court it's almost like you can't help but you know grow a little sympathetic.<br> <br> As a probation officer, Garcia isn't just trying to bust kids when they screw up.<br> <br> He really wants to help, but by fall, Garcia says he and the attorneys and the judge were running out of patience with Marcus and probably would have sent him to prison.<br> <br> But then, the mother of all lifelines was extended.<br> <br> SMITH: I've tried to think of other ways to help him and I thought really the best way to help him is to get him out of Chicago for a while.<br> <br> Maura Smith's daughter goes to a Catholic boarding school in Kansas and one day she thought it might be a good place for Marcus.<br> <br> So she and a friend offered to split the tuition costs.<br> <br> Smith met Marcus when she was volunteering at the juvenile prison every Tuesday night just visiting with kids.<br> <br> It's through a Christian ministry but she says she's not much for talking about God.<br> <br> She talks to the kids about their families or music they like.<br> <br> SMITH: And some of those boys, you feel like, there's not going to be many options for them and it breaks your heart.<br> <br> But Marcus?<br> <br> SMITH: He was just one of those young men that you really felt, hey, this young guy could probably do something.<br> <br> Smith was charmed by Marcus though she's no fool either.<br> <br> She chooses not to know the details of what all he's into.<br> <br> She arranged for him to visit the Kansas campus.<br> <br> MARCUS: Man it's nice.&nbsp; It's a lot of international kids.&nbsp; Like I met this girl from Peru.&nbsp; She was nice.&nbsp; She was gorgeous.&nbsp; Talking about just beautiful.&nbsp; And I met this girl from Mexico, beautiful too.&nbsp; Then another girl from Ghana, Africa.&nbsp; Beautiful.<br> <br> So last fall, with this unheard of opportunity on the horizon, the judge, the probation officers, the attorneys, they all gave Marcus extra lifelines just trying to get him to the new semester.<br> <br> He was set to leave January 3rd so they didn't let him out of jail until December 22nd in an effort to limit his chances of getting in trouble.<br> <br> But probation officer Garcia says even in that short time frame, Marcus disappeared from his mother's house for a few days and he missed a meeting, but Garcia gave him the benefit of the doubt one final time.<br> <br> GARCIA: It was all with this notion that come January 3rd he's going to show up at home and have his bags packed and ready to go.&nbsp; Like that's all I was focused on.<br> <br> Marcus did leave January 3rd though he's already gotten in trouble at the new school for smoking Marijuana.<br> <br> But there are also signs of hope.<br> <br> He's been asking teachers for help, showing he wants to succeed.<br> <br> And he's talking about a trip in the spring.<br> <br> Garcia says that means he's finally looking ahead, thinking about more than just tomorrow.<br> <br> Robert Wildeboer, WBEZ.<br> <br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 01 Feb 2011 09:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/inside-and-out-marcus-year-trouble-and-surprises