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Do we really prefer robberies to rescued kids?

In this May 4, 2016, photo, Philip Graceffa poses for a photo with his mother, Cynthia, at her home in Rockford, Ill. Graceffa recently finished the Redeploy Illinois program, which gives juveniles an option based in the community, instead of prison. Several Redeploy programs around the state are being cut because of the state budget impasse. (AP Photo/Sophia Tareen)

You can pretty much draw a straight line from the political stalemate in Springfield to a flurry of robberies in Rockford.

If the people in Illinois need another sad example of the undeniable harm being done to our state by our governor and Legislature’s pathetic inability to pass a basic budget, this is it.

As the Associated Press reported this weekend, a successful Rockford-area program to divert juveniles from prison and to keep them from re-offending shut down in October after its money dried up because of the state’s budget impasse. Within months, a rash of armed robberies and carjackings hit Rockford, including 14 on one January day, and the cops recognized the juveniles behind it all — the same ones cut loose from the prison-diversion program, called Redeploy Illinois.

Although nearly $5 million was allocated for Redeploy Illinois programs around Illinois, the state hasn’t actually paid a single dollar since last summer.

All those social service agencies across Illinois that have been screaming for more than a year that we’ll pay a big price if they have to close their doors?

They were — and are — absolutely right.

EDITORIAL

Pat Hoey, Rockford’s assistant deputy police chief, summed it up well when he told the AP: “When all these social service agencies are cut, the only public agency left to pick up the pieces is law enforcement. We’re not equipped to do that. You can’t arrest your way out of youth violence crime issues.”

The whole point of Redeploy Illinois is to stop forcing law enforcement pick up the pieces. Instead, people are steered to services they need to get their lives on track.

Cynthia Graceffa of Rockford, for example, says Redeploy saved her son Philip when he was “out of control” after her husband died and she lost her job. Philip, who broke into a school, stole a car and sold prescription medication, got daily calls from a case worker, who helped him with homework and rides. He graduated from the program, got a fast food job, is working on his high school equivalency and dreams of being a firefighter, the AP reported.

The appalling aspect of this story is that Redeploy Illinois, which has both juvenile and adult versions, is widely praised by people and organizations across the political spectrum. Gov. Bruce Rauner lauded the adult version in his 2015 State of the State address. The only real criticism people seemed to have is that Redeploy hasn’t been scaled up quickly enough.

And yet, now there is no money. It doesn’t make sense.

Under the juvenile version of Redeploy Illinois, which started in 2005, judges give juveniles ages 13 to 18 who commit less-serious crimes a community-based option instead of prison. The juveniles also get counseling, career training and treatment for such things as trauma, substance abuse and mental health issues. It’s been a success in counties around the state that have joined the program, cutting recidivism and saving taxpayers millions of dollars on incarceration costs.

But those gains are slipping away. Of Illinois’ 102 counties, 45 started juvenile Redeploy programs, but in Fiscal Year 2016, six counties dropped out because of a lack of funding. Others counties have cut back services.

As for Adult Redeploy, Kane County ended its program in December, and Kankakee County will do the same at the end of this fiscal year. In Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said he is “not done fighting” for funding, but the county has been able to keep going only by shifting resources from other programs. Other counties, including Cook County, are cutting services and supervision.

Diverting nonviolent criminals into programs where they get the help they need gives ex-offenders a better chance of turning their lives around. It also saves taxpayers money. For all the cash we sink into prisons, they don’t do much in the way of rehabilitation.

Do we need more robberies and carjackings to see that we are going down the wrong road here?

From left, Justice Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court, Leonard Dixon, superintendent of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Candice Jones, director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, and Judge Colleen Sheehan on a panel ÒJuvenile Justice in Cook County: The View from Inside,Ó at City Club of Chicago Wednesday. Rich Hein/Sun-Times

From left, Justice Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court,  Leonard Dixon, superintendent of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Candice Jones, director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, and Judge Colleen Sheehan on a June 1 panel discussing juvenile justice in Cook County. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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