Redeploy Illinois Program Gaining Ground

Tools

By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

ILLINOIS -- An experimental program that keeps young offenders out of prison is being called a success. Redeploy Illinois has helped more than a thousand young offenders in the past decade. It's changing behavior for those teens and saving millions in taxpayer dollars.

Those that have been with the program since the launch believe it's a big reinvestment. Instead of spending more than $100,000 per juvenile for a year in prison, funding goes to intensive counseling that costs about $7,000.
 
Young offenders in Jefferson County often wound up behind bars in the juvenile justice system. That is an expensive venture that doesn't always have great results.
 
"Sending the kid to prison cost us a $100,000 dollars a year, the taxpayers," said Former Jefferson County State's Attorney and Current Statewide Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Coordinator Jeff Bradley. "Generally turns out a better criminal than what we sent to prison in the first place."
 
In 2005, the Second Judicial Circuit signed on to be a pilot site for Redeploy Illinois. The program can send non-violent kids and teens through therapy instead.
 
"It wasn't a matter of being tough on crime," said Bradley. "It was a matter of being smart on crime."
 
Prosecutors, like Bradley, were concerned early on that the idea wouldn't work and only lead to a spike in problems.
 
"That just doesn't happen," said Bradley. "Every prosecutor says that, that's what their fear is."
 
The latest report from Illinois Department of Human Services shows the complete opposite. In participating sites, more than half of juveniles avoid prison. The move has saved the state nearly $60 million in eight years.
 
"It changed the attitude of people in the courtroom because we had something to use," said Retired Chief Judge George Timberlake.
 
Timberlake is chair of the Redeploy Oversight Board. He believes the key to success is that each community can design its own program.
     
"So we're asking people to try things and see what works," said Timberlake. 
 
In Jefferson County and other circuit counties, that meant counseling for mental health, substance abuse, and family problems.
 
"When there's an issue that the parents can't deal with, they call the therapist," said Timberlake. "He or she comes right then, any time, day or night."
 
It's a resource that he's seen not only get a child back on track, but also change the course for entire households.
 
"They see things getting better," said Timberlake. "They benefit from that."
 
In order to get the state funding, counties have to reduce the number of kids sent to the Juvenile Justice Department by 25 percent. In 2005, just a handful of locations were part of the pilot program. It can now be found in nearly 50 counties and more are in the planning stages. 
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