Letter to the Governor: Close IYC Kewanee

On June 2, 2015 Governor Bruce Rauner's office issued a press release that it would “begin the process of identifying one or two juvenile justice correctional facilities for closure.” CRS joins the calls of other advocacy organizations to immediately close the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s Youth Center at Kewanee. 

December 17, 2015

The Honorable Bruce Rauner
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Governor Rauner:

On behalf of Community Renewal Society, I urge you to immediately close the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s Youth Center at Kewanee.

Closing Kewanee aligns with the mission of the Reclaim Campaign, which is a collaborative effort of Community Renewal Society and Southside Together Organizing for Power to reduce violence in our communities through restorative justice. The goal of the Reclaim Campaign is to move resources away from overly punitive criminal justice systems into community-based Restorative Justice Peace Hubs, mental health, and substance abuse alternatives that rehabilitate lives and make our communities safer. 

Juvenile facilities are enormously expensive for the state of Illinois, and they fail to improve public safety or rehabilitate youth. Incarcerating youth also exposes them to potentially harmful environments. Instead, we need to invest in our children and communities, not juvenile prisons.

Illinois is to be commended for the decrease in the population of our juvenile facilities and keeping children at home with community-based services. The average number of children in Illinois’ state juvenile prisons is at an historic low. This decrease is due in significant part to the state’s shift of resources to less costly and more effective community-based alternatives through Redeploy Illinois.

The recent reports of the court-appointed monitors in the R.J. vs Jones litigation on the status of the mental health, education, safety and welfare of the children at IYC Kewanee further demonstrate the urgent need to close this facility. Some major areas of concerns are: the isolated location, lack of mental health services and staff, students receiving an average of less than one half the instructional time to which they were entitled, and the tremendous amount of confinement (22 hours or more a day) of youth in their rooms.

In June 2015 Governor Bruce Rauner's office announced it would “begin the process of identifying one or two juvenile justice correctional facilities for closure.” The announcement observed that the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) has “a surplus of capacity,” namely “capacity of approximately 1,200 beds, with less than 700 occupied.” See News Release of 6/2/15.

On October 30th and November 4th, 2015, the court-appointed monitors in the R.J. vs Jones litigation filed reports on the status of mental health, education, and safety and welfare of the children in IDJJ. The reports make plain the urgent need to close the youth center at Kewanee.

CRS joins the calls of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, ACLU-Illinois, and John Howard Association of Illinois in urging the Governor to immediately close the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s Youth Center at Kewanee. 

Sincerely,

Rev. Curtiss P. DeYoung, Ed. D.
Executive Director

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