Youth Prison in Kewanee Might Close


On Friday, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice announced it plans to close the youth correctional facility in Kewanee by July 1. The Juvenile Justice Department says the closing would save the state about $14 million, improve rehabilitation for young offenders, and improve community safety. It will also eliminate 200 jobs.

youth correctional facility in Kewanee

The Youth Correctional Center in Kewanee

Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice

However, AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall says the governor cannot just close it - proposed closings like this one must go before a bipartisan group from the General Assembly called the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. He says the commission will conduct a hearing process. 

"We'll have to take all of the evidence, look at the services the facility provides, look at the economic impact and make a recommendation as to whether closure should be permitted or not."

And he promises the union will make a strong case to keep Kewanee open - not just to save jobs, but because of the "unique and special programs" it offers. 

Kewanee City Manager, Gary Bradley, says officials from the Department of Juvenile Justice are recommending it be turned into a regular prison for adults. 

ACLU staff attorney Lindsay Miller says Kewanee typically housed the neediest kids - like juvenile sex offenders or youth requiring intensive mental health treatment.

She says that is "largely due to its geographic isolation, it’s just been extremely difficult to get staff, which makes it difficult for it to provide the services they need to for this population."

The youth prison opened in 2001 and improvements were made several years ago to house maximum security offenders. Its overall capacity is 350, but last year it housed an average of 180 young people. The department says the current count is just 95.

Kewanee houses young people at the medium and maximum security levels, plus some special populations, including juvenile sex offenders, and those with severe mental health issues and substance abuse problems. 

Story source: Illinois Public Radio