Kewanee youth center to close despite state committee recommendation
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – After a state advisory committee voted against the recommendation to close the youth center in Kewanee, leaders say they’ll proceed with the closure anyway.
The closure was initially announced in February 2016, when more than 200 AFSCME union workers, plus managers and other workers, were notified of plans to close the Illinois Youth Center in Kewanee. The medium-security facility can house up to 354 offenders, according to the State of Illinois; the closure leaves the state with nearly 700 beds to house youth offenders according to Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Director Candice Jones.
Jones said the remaining beds would be enough to meet the state’s needs.
As part of the state-required process, the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reviewed the proposal to close IYC-Kewanee at their May 3, 2016 meeting, and it failed. That means the commission recommended against closing IYC-Kewanee by a 5 to 6 vote.
The committee cited economic impact, and the potential cost-effectiveness of maintaining the Kewanee facility versus other youth detention facilities, among reasons for their decision.
“Members who voted against the motion cited a lack of a transition plan as a major issue. Many members hoped to see the Department of Corrections convert the facility to an adult facility potentially as a new hospice care facility,” said a statement from the commission about their vote.
Jones says they were prepared for a vote against closure, and that they’ll proceed with the closure plans anyway.
“The Department will move forward with closure of IYC-Kewanee in recognition of national best practices based around high-intensity individualized services for high-risk youth in its facilities. We will continue to work with IYC-Kewanee employees to secure placement in IDJJ or other State agencies’ vacant positions,” Jones said in a statement issued Tuesday, May 10.
“By closing this large, maximum-security facility, IDJJ will be able to transition to developing smaller, regional treatment-focused facilities that are proven to be more effective in rehabilitating youth. That’s good for taxpayers, youth, families, and our communities,” Jones said.
“Governor Rauner’s decision to ignore the recommendation of a bipartisan commission of experts and eliminate 200 jobs in Henry County is devastating for this community,” said a statement from Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “We had an opportunity to raise the bar by providing the highest quality care for the kids at this facility however Governor Rauner refused to give nearly 200 hard working men and women at the Kewanee Center a chance. My heart breaks for the families who are losing their jobs.”