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Redeploy Illinois Savings Pass $40 Million As State Officials Advocate Expansion

SPRINGFIELD, IL – After seven successive years of experience reducing the number of youth committed to state incarceration, some state officials are convinced resources to support the Redeploy Illinois program should be expanded to serve many more communities statewide.

Since 2006, counties participating in Redeploy Illinois achieved a 51 percent reduction in the average number of youth sent annually to be locked up in secure state-operated youth facilities, according to a report released this month by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), which administers the program.

Before Redeploy Illinois implementation, the 28 participating counties sent an average of 356 youth to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, each year.  After implementation, those counties average 174 commitments per year.  The report notes that this steep decline in commitments means that more than 850 youth were diverted from IDJJ, a 50 percent average reduction in commitments from Redeploy Illinois participating counties.  

The annual appropriation for Redeploy Illinois is $2.4 million, and the savings to state taxpayers has been significant, according to IDHS.  By adverting commitments of a projected 883 youth in Redeploy counties, there has been a potential $40 million in incarceration cost avoidance, the report states.

“The cost savings are dramatic but just as important is the success of the young people participating in Redeploy Illinois,” said Michelle R.B. Saddler, Secretary of the IDHS.  “Not only are real dollars being saved, so are real lives.  Community-based services for justice-involved youth are considerably less expensive and vastly more effective than incarceration, and that saves tax dollars and enhances public safety.”

Preliminary results of a cost-effectiveness study of the four original Redeploy Illinois sites point to a 14.2 percent reincarceration rate for Redeploy Illinois participants, and that compares with a 57.4 percent reincarceration rate among non-participants.  Even youth who began but did not successfully complete Redeploy had a lower rate of re-arrest and incarcerations than juvenile justice-involved youth not in Redeploy in the same counties, according to early analysis of the research. 

“We’ve had plenty of anecdotal evidence about the positive impact of mental health, drug treatment and other services provided to youth in their home communities, and these findings by independent researchers add to the evidence about the wisdom of this rehabilitative approach,” said George W. Timberlake, who is Chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and is a member of the Illinois Models for Change Coordinating Council.

“Redeploy Illinois began as a pilot and expanded gradually to cover 28 counties, but we have 74 other counties, including some very large ones, that are not yet participating in Redeploy Illinois,” said Timberlake.  “In the interest of wise spending of limited tax revenues and improved public safety, the state’s investment in Redeploy Illinois should be increased.”

Counties agreeing to participate in Redeploy Illinois agree to reduce commitments to IDJJ by 25 percent. In exchange, the state provides funding to develop or expand local alternatives designed by local officials to meet the needs of delinquent youth in their communities, who are screened and assessed by probation staff prior to admission to the program.  Services include treatment for substance abuse and mental health; cognition therapy; education, employment and life skills; and family focused treatment.

“The 51 percent reduction in commitments is phenomenal,” said Elizabeth Clarke, who chairs the IDJJ Advisory Board and is President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, a coalition of reform advocates.  “The dramatic reduction is evidence of the desire of juvenile court judges, as well as of others in the system, to reach young people and treat them close to home.

“Without Redeploy Illinois in those counties, options are extremely limited or non-existent, and the one option that has no fiscal impact on counties is to order those youth to state prisons, where state government foots the bill and spends more than $86,000 per youth annually," Clarke said.  "Local alternatives cost a fraction of that.  The evidence is irrefutable.  Redeploy Illinois works and should be available in every county in this state.”

Read the 2010-2011 Redeploy Illinois Annual Report here:

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.