Privatizing Juvenile Justice

From:  The Sun-Times:

Stroger foes demand leaders resign at juvenile center :

Calling the center “a jobs farm,” Claypool wants its leaders replaced by an outside agency with experience in juvenile issues.

Who would figure that my inaugural post on MetBlog in 2006 would be about the Juvenile Court…

From this article, Claypool’s other achievements in city government (Privatization)  and general rumor, it looks like the Commissioner  wants to have a private agency handle Juvenile Justice in Cook County.  That has got to be the worst idea of 2006.

First and foremost, I’m not a fan of the detention center.  I have not heard about any “riots” upstairs; then again, most of my kids are not in detention.  I know the conditions are horrible; I’ve seen them first hand.  However, I do not think turning things over to a private agency would solve anything.  Public officials, even officials in the judiciary, can be held more accountable than a private agency.  Privatization might save money, but at what sacrifice to quality?  In my experience, turn over rates at agencies that have experience with juveniles is extremely high (6 months to a year).  Kids need consistency, and having high turn over rates will significantly hamper any progress that a child could make while on probation.

Claypool wants to change leadership of the detention center over to an outside agency that has experience with juvenile issues.  The answer is Probation.  Probation is part of the office of the Chief Judge–we still function as an independent branch of the government.  All probation officers are required to have a 4 year degree in psychology, sociology, education or criminal justice. According to internal statistics, at least 25% of the department has an advanced degree in these fields.  Cook County Juvenile Probation is a leader in Detention Alternatives and in court diversion programs.  Starting salary for a probation officer, regardless of experience, is 38k; Salary for a Chicago Public School Teacher with a BA is between 36 and 40k.  Considering that Probation has a case load of approximately 40 clients, with offenses ranging from minor drug cases to violent sexual assaults, I think it’s a steal.

Put the detention center where it belongs:  under the aegis of Cook County Juvenile Probation.  Have the same requirements for Detention Center Employees as actual probation officers.  Then give us the resources to help these kids.  Don’t hand those resources over to a private agency.  The kids in the detention center need, and deserve, much more than that.

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