Illinois to shift teens in state custody to smaller centers

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a plan Friday to move teenagers in state custody to small regional residential centers with a variety of services closer to their homes.

“The 150-year-old punitive model simply doesn’t fulfill its mission,” Pritzker said.

There now are five sites in Illinois, but they’re located in the north and south, which means teens can be far from home. Under the plan, 75 percent of youth will be closer to family.

Pritzker said young people need rehabilitation programs, therapeutic services and family support.

“When it comes to changing young lives for the better, love, nurturing and connection work better than fear, loathing and isolation,” said Heidi Mueller, director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.

The larger sites will be transferred to the state Corrections Department to possibly ease crowding in prisons.