Looking at the Odds for Illinois’ Youngest Offenders – and the Efforts to Arrest Recidivism

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Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, Chicago, Illinois.

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Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, Chicago, Illinois.

The number of youth who exit Illinois state detention centers and find themselves right back in one soon after has decreased in recent years. But the rate remains stubbornly high and is projected be above 40 percent in 2013.

It is true that the number of minors incarcerated across the nation has dropped. Here in Illinois the decline has been significant – upward of 36 percent since the early 2000s, but critics still say the justice system is broken, heavily skewed against minorities and failing to treat youth as even the United States Supreme Court has ruled they should be – as youth, not adults.

The Chicago Bureau is publishing the following project in hopes of answering some of the riddle as to why the rate was, is, and is expected to remain so high, looking at the factors that contribute to youth recidivism and what is being done to try to arrest it.

The project, reported by students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, examines ways Illinois is trying to lower the number of youth stuck in the cycle by providing alternatives to incarceration, helping them transition out of the system, and, in doing so, reducing costs. The project also examines what approaches work and which could, according to interviews with experts, officials, and community groups, be improved.

Chicago BureauThe reporting effort, presented in the following interactive production put together by the student authors, also looks at ways that independent organizations and their programs attempt to do the same, supporting the children within detention centers, preventing violence before it occurs, and offering transitional spaces for those emerging from a system some argue was built for a super-predator generation that never came to be.

Click to see the piece, titled, “Breaking the Cycle: Recidivism Rates in Illinois Youth Detention Centers.

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