Monday Letters: Stop treating young offenders like adults felons

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The youth correctional center in Kewanee, Ill., (Mike Berry/Star Courier via AP)

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State Rep. Elaine Nekritz and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, both Chicago Democrats, are absolutely right when they write that Illinois should come into line with the rest of the nation in deciding when young people should be paroled from youth prisons. Illinois is the only state in the country that has an adult parole board releasing young people from its juvenile correctional facilities, keeping young people locked up longer than they need to be, causing unnecessary delays, costing taxpayers money, and separating the release decision from the people who know kids the best — the department staff who have been attempting to rehabilitate them.

I served as executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in Washington and as commissioner of probation in New York City. In both the District of Columbia and New York, juvenile justice agencies served as the releasing authorities for youth in our care and custody. That allowed staff to structure rehabilitative programming during and after the youths’ incarceration in a way that made sense; to involve parents and guardians in developing youths’ aftercare plans; and for our staff to work with community-based organizations in crafting supports for youth after release. Outsourcing that to an adult parole board, 93 percent of whose cases involve adult prisoners, guarantees that cases involving youth – perhaps the most important from the standpoint of rehabilitation – will get the least attention. As Illinois policy makers continue to reform the state’s juvenile justice system, the adult parole board is a relic that should be abandoned.

Vincent Schiraldi, New York

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It’s interesting that the word “selfish” has been used to describe the actions of Dennis Nicholl, who apparently used a jammer to silence cell phones on the CTA, but not to describe the boorish behavior of the cell phone users themselves, who seem to feel as if they have every right to let their gadgets beep, squawk, and blare, and then bellow into them, in a close public space —  selfishly imposing their noise and annoyance on others.

David G. Whiteis, West Town

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