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State Juvenile Justice Dept. Report Touches On Medication, Expansion


The use of medication to control behavior has gone up in Illinois youth prisons over the past five years. That’s according to an annual report from the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Five years ago, youth prison staff weren’t using medication to control behavior at all.  Now so-called chemical restraints are used on about 1 out of every 100 youth inmates. 

But Illinois still ranks slightly below the national average.

In the same time frame, the use of physical restraints and solitary confinement has dropped. The Department of Juvenile Justice has had to stop using solitary as a punishment as part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The new state youth parole system has also expanded statewide.  But experts say it isn’t having an impact - at least not yet.  

Eighty-six percent of kids who spent time in an Illinois youth prison ended up going back. The state is counting on a new program called Aftercare to reduce that number. It combines traditional parole with social services.

Jennifer Vollen-Katz is with prison watchdog the John Howard Association. She says a lot of effort has been made to expand Aftercare.

“I know there’s been a lot of staff hired, a lot of staff trained. Still not every youth has been put on Aftercare from parole. And I think a lot of the responsibilities Aftercare is meant to take on haven’t been fully realized yet.”

Vollen-Katz says she thinks the historically troubled department is improving under its new director. 

This is the first time in the department’s eight year history it has put out an annual report.