Since 2009, Illinois’ Department of Juvenile Justice has tried to focus more on rehabilitation of the youth in its detention centers rather than punishment.
A strictly limited use of solitary confinement, mental health treatment, programming and educational opportunities were implemented, in hopes of changing the behavior of juveniles and preparing them to reenter society. And for the past seven years, it worked: the reforms helped cut the department’s population by at least 60 percent.
But some employees have remained resistant to the reforms, claiming policies like the limiting of solitary confinement takes a useful tool from their security arsenal. And when scuffles occur between offenders and guards, complications arise, and often with punishing consequences.
A recent report from ProPublica Illinois found that in at least one state facility, relatively minor offenses from a teen in detention—spitting at, shoving, or even indirectly hitting a guard—can lead to assault charges and being tried as an adult, a move at odds with the reforms focused on rehabilitation.
Morning Shift talks to journalist Duaa Eldeib, who reported on the Illinois Youth Center at Harrisburg for ProPublica Illinois.