Gov. Rauner says IYC-Kewanee youth center should close

IYC-Kewanee faces closure under current plans by Illinois government officials.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday he feels the Illinois Youth Center-Kewanee must be closed.

Speaking in Peoria, the governor said, ”It was . . . very expensive for taxpayers but it was also not providing high quality outcomes for the residents and they can be treated and housed in better locations at lower costs.”

However, figures presented last week by Henry County Treasurer Tim Wells at a hearing on the IYC-Kewanee closing showed that the Kewanee facility is actually the second-cheapest of the six DJJ facilities around the state to operate.

Wells reported that the average cost per inmate of running IYC-Kewanee is $114,645 a year. Only the DJJ facility in St. Charles, at $97,541, is lower.

The highest cost per inmate was at the facility in Warrenville, $213,427.

The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which operates IYC-Kewanee, announced in February that it plans to close the facility at the end of June.

The closing would eliminate more than 200 jobs.

While IYC-Kewanee has the capacity to house more than 300 youths, as of last week the population there was just 74, DJJ Director Candice Jones said at last week’s hearing. Of them, 41 will be eligible to be released before July 1, seven will be transferred to mental health units at DJJ’s St. Charles and Harrisburg locations and the rest will be sent to other DJJ facilities across the state.

Jones said the main reason for the closing was not to save money, but because the facility didn’t measure up to standards in performance reviews.

But under questioning of State Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, co-chair of the legislative commission that conducted the hearing, Jones said none of DJJ’s facilities met the standards. She also said the local facility’s performance evaluations have improved recently.

Jones said the trend in juvenile justice is to house youths in smaller residential centers closer to their homes, so that family could visit more frequently.