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Judge Evans Praises Judges for Newest Juvenile Initiative

Judge_EvansChief Judge Timothy C. Evans and Juvenile Justice Division Presiding Judge Michael P. Toomin announced juvenile court judges have recently diverted 269 minors, who otherwise faced detention in the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), into alternative community and faith-based programs designed to address their individual problems and needs.

The Juvenile Detention Reduction Initiative was developed by the judges of the court’s Juvenile Justice Division with the input and support of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department, the offices of the Cook County State’s Attorney and Public Defender, the Chicago Police Department, and funding from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Board of Commissioners.  Begun as a six-month pilot program in May 2012, it joins six other programs created by the court to ensure that court-involved eligible minors are diverted into appropriate programs and interventions as a means to provide for the needs of juveniles in trouble and to reduce the average daily population of the JTDC within a sound framework of public safety.

“The Circuit Court of Cook County has long been recognized as a national leader for its juvenile court programs,” said Chief Judge Evans.  “This latest initiative continues the court’s efforts to have a system of justice that is sensitive to the needs of the minors we are trying to help as well as to the needs of the public.”

The Initiative targeted Chicago police districts which had the highest arrest rates and commitments of minors to detention for the period of November through March 1, 2012, which included Englewood, Lawndale, Little Village, Back of the Yards, Marquette Park, Roseland and Auburn Gresham.

Judges can refer two primary categories of court-involved minors who face secure detention in the JTDC into the Initiative: those who have not complied with the terms of their probation and those for whom a warrant has been issued for failure to appear in court.  Instead of secure detention, judges can order these minors into new programs provided by community and faith-based organizations that offer tutoring, peer mentoring discussions, workforce skills development, community service projects and sports.

Judges also are diverting eligible minors being held in the JTDC who have mental health or substance abuse issues into the Initiative’s programs. Such minors are first sent to a diagnostic center/shelter for mental health and drug assessments before diverting them to appropriate treatment programs.  In addition, judges have ordered eligible minors on probation to the Initiative whom they believe would benefit from intervention.

To date, 269 minors have been enrolled in the Initiative’s programs from May 14, 2012, through August 13, 2012.

When Chief Judge Evans was first elected Chief Judge in 2001, the average daily population of the JTDC was 492.  By 2011, the court’s efforts brought the average daily population down 40 percent to 291.  For the last two years, the average daily population has remained under 300.  The population of the JTDC on August 12, 2012, was 250 minors.

“The judges in juvenile court operate on a philosophy of treatment and rehabilitation. Whenever possible, diverting a minor from the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center into supervision and treatment will always take priority,” said Chief Judge Evans.  “I thank Presiding Judge Toomin, the judges and Michael Rohan, director of the Juvenile and Probation and Court Services Department, and Bart Lubow, Annie E. Casey Foundation executive director, for their unremitting dedication to helping our troubled youth.”

Not all minors are eligible for referral to the Initiative.  These include minors who have a history of sex offenses or sexually acting out behaviors; those charged with arson or who have a history of fire setting; those who have recently attempted suicide or have demonstrated suicidal thoughts; and serious violent offenders.

The following community and faith-based organization participate in the Initiative:

  • Heartland Alliance
  • Lawndale Christian Legal Clinic
  • Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation
  • Olive Branch Mission
  • Canaan Community Church
  • Imago Dei Ministries Panthers Basketball League
  • The Youth Peace Center of Roseland
  • The Chicago School Forensic Center
  • New Life Community Church
  • New Beginnings Church

The Juvenile Detention Reduction Initiative joins the court’s six nationally recognized programs that have proven highly successful in reducing the daily population of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.  In 1998, the programs earned the Circuit Court of Cook County designation as a national model by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which means jurisdictions from around the country send representatives to learn about the Circuit Court of Cook County’s success.  Also in 1998, one of the programs, the Evening Reporting Centers, received the Urban Innovations in Illinois Award for Service Delivery.

The Illinois General Assembly transferred control of the JTDC to the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2008. Prior to that, administration of the JTDC had been under the authority of the Office of the Cook County Board President.  Currently, day to day control of the facility remains under the authority of a transitional administrator pursuant to a federal consent decree in 1-99-CV-3945.

According to statistics maintained by the court’s Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department, a total of 5,075 minors were admitted to the JTDC in 2011.  Of those, 1,944 or 38 percent were held on warrants, 1,700 or 34 percent were held by court order and 1,431 or 28 percent were held on new charges pending evaluation.

Click here for more from the Circuit Court of Cook County

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