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Hundreds of jobs cut as state decides to close juvenile detention center in Kewanee

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More than 200 jobs will be lost as the Illinois Youth Center in Kewanee is being closed by the state.

Cost efficiency and a change in youth offender rehabilitation were among reasons behind the decision, according to Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Director Candice Jones.  She says closing the Kewanee facility is a move toward using smaller and less-restrictive facilities for youth offenders.

Employees of the facility did not see it coming.

“At 6:00 roll call, the director announced they’re closing the facility. That was it," said Dino Leone with AFSCME.

Leone said about 210 union positions, and an unknown number of management and other positions, would be cut.

"We considered many factors in arriving at this conclusion, including: national best practices; optimal youth outcomes; ongoing challenges at the facility as highlighted by court-appointed juvenile justice experts and costs to the State. An analysis of each area supported an overall decision to close," Jones said.

IYC-Kewanee is a medium-security facility that can house up to 354 offenders, according to the State of Illinois.  Closing it leaves the state with 683 beds for juvenile offenders, Jones said.

"That is enough capacity to comply with best practices, and account for seasonal fluctuations in the number of youth confined. We cannot continue to operate six facilities when the numbers are so clear," Jones said.