Illinois Justice Project




Department of juvenile Justice

In 2005, The Illinois Justice Project (then part of Chicago Metropolis 2020) along with other advocate groups, worked to separate the Youth Division from the adult functions of the Illinois Department of Corrections and to create a new Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ).  After about 18 months of policy design and work with the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office, the new IDJJ was created.

Since its creation, the Department has worked to accomplish its mandate, embodied in its mission:

    “…… enhance public safety and positive youth outcomes by providing strength based individualized services to youth in a safe learning and treatment environment so that they may successfully reintegrate into their communities.”

IDJJ leadership and advocates have helped reduce youth incarceration, with its population going from at its peak at 1700 to over 1200 to under 400. Misdemeanants are no longer admitted to state prisons, and youth who used to be on parole (or aftercare, as it is called when applied to juveniles) until they were 21, regardless of their crime and when it was committed, now are on parole for a period proportionate to their crime. This reduction resulted in the closure of three unneeded prisions. There have been numerous improvements for those youth who are under IDJJ jurisdiction, including expanded aftercare to reduce recidivism and improved educational services.


Juvenile Redeploy

One of the programs responsible for the drop in juvenile prison population is Juvenile Redeploy Illinois. ILJP participates on the board of Juvenile Redeploy Illinois and helped to established it in 2005. Redeploy Illinois provides a financial incentive to local governments to provide treatment and services for juveniles at the local level and offers an alternative to commitment to a state juvenile prison. The services provided include case management, education assistance, counseling and crisis intervention as determined through an individual needs assessment. ILJP continues to partner with system decision-makers and advocate for the expansion of program sites state-wide, including the establishment of a Redeploy program in Cook County.

The Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board (RIOB) prepares a report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the progress of Redeploy Illinois. These services resulted in 1,793 fewer youth being committed to IDJJ over the program’s first nine years and saving Illinois taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary incarceration costs.


Did You Know: Thanks to the Redeploy Illinois program, commitments to the Department of Juvenile Justice have been reduced by 53%, resulting in $88 million cost avoidance for the state of Illinois. St. Clair County reduced prison commitments from 86 to 11 in its first year participating in the program.

YOuth ShackLing

ILJP organized a coalition of advocates successfully arguing for a new Illinois Supreme Court rule banning the indiscriminate shackling of youth in juvenile court. ILJP worked with the Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee and other experts and partners to develop the appropriate language that strikes a balance between judicial discretion and the need to limit the unnecessary trauma that shackling of youth causes. Courts still retain the right to shackle a youth if necessary to maintain safety, but that can only be done after holding a hearing to make that determination. The rule went into effect on November 1, 2016, and ILJP has been monitoring the implementation of the rule and working with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to assess the results of statewide compliance


Did You Know: After Florida’s Miami–Dade County limited shackling, more than 20,000 youth appeared in court without shackles between the years 2006 and 2011. During that period, no child escaped, nor were any court personnel harmed in an escape attempt.

Programs to reduce youth violence

ILJP provides support for Get IN Chicago, a public/private partnership of corporate sponsors in Chicago. While Get IN faced growing pains in its early days, ILJP joined its Advisory Board as the organization was cataloging what had been learned during its earlier years. Now, Get IN Chicago has announced more than $19 million of funding for new partnerships, technical assistance, and special projects. ILJP continues to participate on the Board to support Get IN Chicago in distributing its funding in a meaningful and impactful way, advocating for strong evaluation of programs and focusing on long-term positive youth outcomes.

Through its early years, Get In learned that organizations delivering services to youth must deliver on five key variables to succeed: (1) recruitment and retention, (2) dosage (3) empowerment of communities (4) capacity and (5) measurement. Without success in these five areas, organizations were likely to underachieve. 

ILJP is in direct consultation with the city of Chicago through the Department of Family Support Services and the Chicago Police Department in supporting their efforts to improve the juvenile justice system, using the Juvenile Intervention Service Center (JISC). The purpose of the JISC is to provide services to youth who are arrested and assessed to be more likely to benefit from services than going to trial. They are referred to services from the JISC.

Disproportionate Minority Contact

ILJP works to address the over representation of minority youth, especially Black males in the juvenile justice system. ILJP partnered with Adler University, Data Made, Project NIA and City Bureau to develop Justice Divided a website serving as an action-oriented public awareness tool to educate and engage members of the public, particularly those living in communities most impacted by the juvenile justice system, to take action to address systemic disparities in their local communities.

The website includes data regarding the juvenile justice system and the disparate impact the system has on youth of color, particularly Black and Hispanic males. Visitors to the website have an opportunity to walk in the shoes of youth going through the various points of the juvenile justice system and refer visitors to resources to take action on the issue. 

ILJP also works very closely with the Disproportionate Minority Contact Workgroup of Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. The Commission and workgroups are tasked with advising system actors and lawmakers on best practices and funding efforts to bring equality to the system.


Did You Know: 59% of children held in Illinois detention facilities are African-American despite representing less than 20% of the total population. Of all the African-American children held, only 26% are detained for violent offenses.

EXPUNGEment Expansion 

ILJP staff worked closely with the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission to help publish its landmark study on juvenile records called "Burdened for Life: The Myth of Juvenile Record Confidentiality and Expungement in Illinois.” 

The report, spearheaded by several of groups, including Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center, illustrated that juvenile criminal records are widely accessible despite the popular belief that they are confidential. That accessibility and the difficulty in expunging records have a significant effect on a youth’s ability to secure quality housing, obtain higher education and become gainfully employed.

ILJP advocates for expungement laws to apply more broadly, be automatic and properly implemented, as opposed to the status quo of expungement that is confusing, expensive, unduly limited and that requires particular expertise to complete the process. ILJP  provided policy advice on the development of state legislation that expands and automates expungement opportunities for young people with records. In 2017, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed HB 3817, now Public Act 100-0285, which incorporates much of the policy work and will make Illinois a national leader in juvenile expungement.


Did You Know: Between 2004 and 2014, for every 1,000 juvenile arrests only three records were expunged in Illinois. This is despite the fact that 95.5% of those arrests were nonviolent. There were approximately 1.8 million juvenile arrests in Illinois during that same period.


ILJP staff served on the transition teams of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Superintendent Leonard Dixon. In each case, there was an emphasis on the developmental differences of juveniles and also the importance of providing sound and appropriate programming for diversion or for youth who are temporarily incarcerated.