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Illinois Spends $111,000 To Jail Each Young Offender

JPI Website

Illinois taxpayers spend $304.11 per day to provide supervision, education, housing, meals and other care for each youthful offender in the seven Illinois Youth Centers run by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

That’s according to figures in a report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding alternatives to incarceration.

The annual cost of $111,000 per incarcerated young Illinois offender is less than a third of what New York spends – and more than double what Louisiana spends. And it’s well below the national average of $148,767 per year per offender.

But that’s too much, JPI maintains, and there are better solutions through community-based programs. The institute recommends that policymakers shift public dollars to community-based options for treatment and supervision that keep young people at home or close to home.

Such options where youth remain engaged in school and family life, the report notes, have been proven to deliver better results -- both for the youth and for public safety. Numerous intervention and prevention programs can help reduce delinquent behavior, foster positive development skills, and keep costs down.

The study notes that 62% of the “committed youth population” in 2011 was sent up for non-violent offenses. “Incarceration should be the last resort, not the first resort for every juvenile justice system in the country,” the study concludes.

The report cites the fact that the United States has the largest population of confined persons – adults and youth – and the highest incarceration rate in the world.

And, although African-Americans and Hispanics make up only one third of the national population, they represent two thirds of the incarcerated youth across the country. In 2011, for every one white youth in confinement, 2.8 youth of color were in confinement.

The chart below compares the lowest, highest and average state expenditures for youth incarceration with Illinois and the three neighboring states included in the study.

State                       Per day                 Per 3 months       Per 6 months       Per year

Louisiana                 $127.84                    $11,506                      $23,011                   $46,662

Indiana                     $212.13                    $19,092                      $38,183                  $77,427

Illinois                      $304.11                    $27,370                      $54,740                  $111,000

Missouri                   $244.30                   $21,987                      $43,974                  $89,170

Wisconsin                $291.00                   $26,190                      $52,380                  $106,215

New York                 $966.20                   $86,958                     $173,916                 $352,663

Nat’l Average      $407.58                 $36,682                  $73,364                $148,767

Beyond the costs of incarceration, there are significant costs to taxpayers once the offender is release. According to the JPI report, taxpayers nationwide shell out between $8 billion and $21 billion each year to cover costs related to former juvenile offenders.

Those costs include lost future earnings for the young ex-inmate and the resulting loss of tax revenue, additional costs for Medicaid and Medicare, the costs of violence against confined youth, and the cost of repeat offenses.

“We believe that there are ways to reduce the price we all pay for our poor policy choices, and instead find more effective ways to help young people successfully transition to adulthood, hold young people accountable for delinquency, and keep our communities safe.” -- Justice Policy Institute report

JPI offered the following recommendations:

  1. Reduce spending on confinement and shift funding to community?based options for youth.
  2. Invest appropriately in juvenile justice, particularly in the right parts of the youth?serving system.
  3. Address all the barriers that exist to reducing reliance on confinement in states and localities.
  4. Improve system capacity to measure recidivism and track positive outcomes.
  5. Develop consistent standards for measuring per diem and confinement costs from place to place.
  6. Expand executive and legislative capacity to develop cost-benefit analysis
  7. Expand research opportunities to study the long?term costs of confinement and juvenile justice system contact.