Cook County alternative court programs praised for keeping youth out of detention

Released On 01/09/2004

Juvenile court programs aimed at reducing the number of young persons held in secure detention are among those receiving national accolades in a report released Wednesday by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice based in Washington, D.C., said Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans.

The report, Unlocking the Future: Detention Reform in the Juvenile Justice System, praises the Circuit Court of Cook County’s juvenile programs for succeeding in providing family and community-based alternatives to detention for troubled young persons. The report said Cook County’s reforms have reversed the negative national trend of detaining youth charged with offenses in locked facilities. Since reforms were first implemented in 1994, Cook County’s juvenile detention population has decreased nearly 40 percent.

"The goal of our judges is to help promote better outcomes for these young persons," said Chief Judge Evans. "Our programs are designed to offer juveniles alternatives to detention which promote public safety and, at the same time, provide minors secular guidance, structure, and services throughout their involvement with the court," said Chief Judge Evans. "The result is we are seeing fewer young persons in detention, who are instead engaged in positive, productive activities. Public safety is also increased because the average success rate for minors who remain arrest free while in these programs is more than 90 percent," Chief Judge Evans added.

The reform programs cited by the report have contributed to the reduction in the average daily population in Cook County’s juvenile detention center from 692 in 1996 (with a one day all-time high of 848) to 464 in 2003. Since 2000 the detention center had consistently maintained its population below its rated capacity of 498.

Reform components of the court’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative cited by the report include new risk assessment and screening procedures, more efficient case processing, reduction in the amount of time between the issuance of a summons and the scheduled court appearance, and a notification system to remind minors of their scheduled court dates.

The report also highlighted the court’s community-based alternative programs that feature emergency shelters and evening reporting centers, calling the court’s relationship with the community "one of the most positive developments." Throughout Cook County, the court operates seven evening reporting centers and two staff secure shelters for young persons needing more supervision. The centers and shelters are staffed by community-based social service agencies. From their inception in 1995 through November 2003, the evening reporting centers have serviced more than 12,000 young persons, and the staff secure shelters have serviced more than 7,300 young persons.

Unlocking the Future: Detention Reform in the Juvenile Justice System was issued by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), a national nonprofit organization established in 1985 comprising 56 governor-appointed juvenile justice advisory groups in the United States, U.S. territories, and the District of Colombia.




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