Report: Il doesn't provide enough mental health care to youth prisoners

Sep 27, 2013

A new report says Illinois doesn’t provide adequate mental health care to its youth prisoners.  The head of a prison watchdog group says the people in charge of the Department of Juvenile  Justice are to blame. IPR'S Patrick Smith has more.

Illinois juvenile offenders who are seriously mentally ill are sent to the youth prison in Kewanee. They’re housed there along with juvenile sex offenders and kids who need maximum security. John Maki’s  the head of prison watchdog, The John Howard Association.

"I don’t know why the Dept. of JJ continues to concentrate  its neediest and most difficult prisoners in a facility that is 100 miles away from most of these kids homes and is understaffed."

A report from the association says despite having the neediest population, Kewanee is severely understaffed. Maki says more than a third of the prison’s mental health positions are unfilled eventhough there is money in the budget for them.

"What this points to is leadership at the top."

Maki says things are so bad that for the second year in a row he’s urging judges to stop sending mentally ill kids to youth prisons until the situation is fixed.

The Department of Juvenile Justice did not respond to requests for comment.