Projects: Illinois Enhanced Aftercare Project

With funding from the Public Welfare Foundation, Vera’s Center on Youth Justice is partnering with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) to improve how young people fare after returning from placement with the state.

Aftercare is the supervision and support of youth who are reentering their communities from juvenile justice facilities. IDJJ identified this as one of their five main priorities, after working closely with Vera in 2014 on a strategic plan that identified key statewide juvenile justice reform goals.

One of IDJJ’S 2016 goals from this plan is to ensure that youth released from their facilities receive a breadth of services, supports, and placements to help them successfully reenter the community and not return to IDJJ custody. To help them meet this goal, Vera is developing a structured framework for post-release supervision and an evidence-based system of graduated responses to youth behavior. Both of these initiatives will allow IDJJ to make decisions and provide services based on the individual needs of youths.

Vera is also developing a Youth Advisory Group (YAG) to provide feedback on the experiences of youth involved with IDJJ’s Aftercare and to support Aftercare in refining its current system of graduated sanctions with the goal of tracking youth progress and linking positive behavior to levels of supervision.

How does limiting youth supervision and sanctions promote public safety?

There is widespread agreement that not every youth requires the same type or intensity of service and supervision. For example, youth with a high risk of reoffending may require more supervision and monitoring upon reentry, while intensive supervision and monitoring can actually produce worse outcomes for youth who have lower levels of risk and divert limited resources from other youth in need. Structured decision-making processes for determining appropriate supervision and matching interventions to the youth’s behavior will enable IDJJ staff to respond to challenging behavior in a measured way.

Why include youth voice?

The YAG will serve as an important tool for identifying areas of improvement in the Aftercare program and ensuring that the youth involved have a vested interest in making the program work.  

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Director, Center on Youth Justice