During the past 15 years working in and around the juvenile justice system, I’ve witnessed many attempts to make communities safer by improving responses to crime, especially crimes involving children.
Of course, there is no single answer to making our communities safer and guaranteeing our youth grow up to become law-abiding adults, but every community could benefit by emulating the work going on in Ogle County.
That work was featured recently at a statewide Models for Change meeting, which brought together justice system policy makers and front-line practitioners from communities across the state.
Without great fanfare but with great determination, the community leaders in Ogle County have created collaboration among police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, service providers, youth and families.
The Ogle County leaders have implemented innovative policy and practice to hold youth responsible and to provide rehabilitation services to stop their bad behaviors before they become more serious threats to community safety and grow into dangerous adult criminals.
These innovations allow earlier identification of family needs and strengths, an improved juvenile justice system, lower justice system costs and better outcomes for both youth and communities.
In a time of fiscal crisis across the state and nation, taxpayers cannot ignore the benefits of Ogle County’s work. The collaborative effort in Ogle County saves tax dollars by identifying and addressing family needs on the “front end” of the justice system.
Less costly and often more effective than incarceration-based strategies, the use of local and community-based services improve long-term outcomes of young people and families.
Other communities in Illinois and even in other states have taken notice of what has happened in Ogle County, which truly has become a model for the nation.
Illinois Models for Change
Loyola University, Chicago,
School of Law