Illinois youth prisons

Flickr user DNAK / (CC x 2.0)

People under 21 who are convicted of a crime could serve time in a juvenile facility instead of an adult jail.

State lawmakers are considering a measure that would raise the juvenile justice system's age limit from 18. It would allow a judge to decide if adult prison is warranted on a case-by-case basis.

Supporters say they want the law changed so that the punishment matches the crime and young people can have another chance to turn their life around. 

Flickr user DNAK / (CC x 2.0)

Advocates across Illinois are calling on the state to change the way it handles young people who’ve committed serious crimes. They want to end the use of large prison facilities.

The alternative is to place youth into smaller community settings, where support can be focused on their educational and mental health needs.

The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is moving forward with closing a youth detention center in Kewanee over objections from a bipartisan legislative oversight panel.

Agency Director Candice Jones said in a Tuesday statement that the panel's advisory vote last week is "disheartening," but it's hard to justify keeping the maximum-security facility open.

She says outcomes have been poor and the state can transition to smaller centers proven to rehabilitate youth.

Illinois To Improve Youth Prisons

Sep 12, 2012

The state of Illinois has agreed to improve conditions at youth prisons under a settlement that officials hope will avert a legal battle if a judge agrees to the deal.