Activists want Pritzker to shut down youth detention centers in Illinois

The group also wants the governor to end funding for a planned sixth juvenile justice center in Lincoln, where the Lincoln Developmental Center stood before being closed in 2002.

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A group of teens rally outside the Thompson Center on July 25, 2022.

Protesters rally outside the Thompson Center on Tuesday, urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to shut down all Illinois Youth Centers and cancel plans for a new youth detention center in Lincoln.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Activists gathered at the James R. Thompson Center on Tuesday, calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to shut down the last five Illinois Youth Center facilities.

Members of The Final 5 Campaign also want the governor to halt plans to build a sixth juvenile justice center. That one is slated for Lincoln, where the former Lincoln Developmental Center stood before it was closed in 2002.

“I live on the South Side of Chicago and we need a lot of things, like new books and a community youth center,” said Qyla Livous, a member of the group, one of about two dozen chanting protesters who gathered Tuesday afternoon.

“Building a new jail does not stop the violence, it just leaves a negative impact on the youth, especially Black and Brown youth.”

The Final 5 Campaign was founded in August 2020 with the goal of shutting down the remaining five Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Youth Centers — in Chicago, Harrisburg, Pere Marquette, St. Charles and Warrenville.

Nicole Negrete, one of the group’s founders, said the facilities harm Illinois youth and are not effective in addressing their needs or the needs of the communities those youth come from.

The new Lincoln facility, announced in February 2021, is part of what the Pritzker administration calls its “21st Century Illinois Transformation Model” to reform the state’s juvenile system and place a greater emphasis on restorative justice.

“The Lincoln Developmental Center needs to be bulldozed, not rebuilt,” student activist Gabriel Perez said. “It’s time for Pritzker to deliver on his promises and put an end to the harmful practices of youth incarceration in Illinois.”

News of plans to rebuild in Lincoln upset student activist Destiny Miranda, who said she believes the state’s budget priorities are not in the proper order.

“I don’t want my friends and family members to be affected by the same prison system that’s been going on for years,” the 17-year-old said. “The budget could be changed to do so much more for the community.”

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