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Editorial: Fighting crime the smart way

Cook County Jail inmates | Sun-Times Library

Cook County Jail inmates | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: June 23, 2013 6:27AM

As recently as three years ago, more than 1,300 young people were locked up in juvenile prisons in Illinois, costing the state a small fortune, from $88,000 to $98,000 per inmate.

Now, thanks in part to Redeploy Illinois, a program that has made it possible for counties to handle and treat nonviolent young offenders right in their communities, the state’s juvenile prison population has plummeted to about 850. Gov. Pat Quinn has been able to close two budget-busting juvenile prisons.

Better yet, studies show that young offenders who fulfill the requirements of Redeploy programs are half as likely, compared to those who do prison time, to get in trouble again.

The moral of the story? Even in tough financial times, state funding for Redeploy Illinois should be increased so that the program can be continued in 28 counties and expanded to several more, including parts of Cook. Quinn has proposed increasing Redeploy funding to $4.9 million from $2.3 million in fiscal year 2014, which strikes us as a bargain.

In 2011, the state began a Redeploy program for nonviolent adult offenders — and it too deserves greater funding. Quinn would like to increase funding to $7 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1, which would support existing programs in 12 counties (including Cook) and new programs in 27 more counties. Last year, the state provided $2 million and the feds kicked in a one-time $4 million.

Across the country, programs similar to Redeploy, which provide such services as drug counseling and job training to non-violent offenders who might otherwise be incarcerated, are gaining ground. States are desperate to cut costs without compromising public safety. Illinois this fiscal year will spend a whopping $1.3 billion on prisons.

Nobody wants to get soft on crime. But everybody wants to go easier on the taxpayer.

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