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Watchdog group finds shortcomings at IYC-St. Charles

Published: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – The absorption of youth from shuttered Illinois Youth Centers has led to struggles at the center in St. Charles, according to a report released this week from a prison watchdog group.

In its 2013 Monitoring Report on IYC-St. Charles, the John Howard Association of Illinois notes that the medium-security facility for boys has undergone significant changes since the last monitoring report.

Its population grew, primarily because it absorbed youth from recently closed facilities, according to the report.

Additionally, the document states, the St. Charles facility has been tasked with housing special populations – including those with serious mental health issues – and youth with pending court cases.

“By all accounts,” the report states, “the facility has struggled to meet the needs of its new and growing population, particularly in its school, which is currently operating on a reduced schedule.”

In addition to having a lack of teaching staff, the facility also encounters problems with having enough security staff onsite because security officers must transport youths to court – an often all-day task, the ­association found.

This affects the school because security officials are needed to monitor youth in the hallways and to help teachers when necessary, according to the report.

The association also found that the St. Charles facility provided insufficient treatment for youth suffering from severe mental illness.

“Current understaffing at St. Charles not only undermines [the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s] rehabilitative mission for youth in its care, but it also potentially violates youths’ constitutional right to receive an education and adequate mental health treatment,” the association reported.

Addressing staffing shortages and current incarcerated population are among the association’s recommendations to the IDJJ.

Visit www.thejha.org to download the full report.

By the numbers

• 283 – Population of the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles. 12 percent are white; 71 percent are black and 17 percent are Hispanic.

• 17.1 – Average age

• $109,000 – Average annual cost per youth

Source: John Howard Association of Illinois

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