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DuPage Board Approves Moving Young Offenders to Kane County

A group that is opposing the merger with Kane County voiced its concerns Monday.

The DuPage County Board has approved an agreement between the DuPage and Kane County juvenile detention facilities to cut costs by moving young offenders to Kane County. 

Per the four-year contract, the Juvenile Justice Center Detention Services of Kane County will house DuPage County’s youth detainees and provide programs, services and education. DuPage County will pay Kane County $110 per day per minor, according to a press release from the DuPage County Board, less than a third of the $357 cost to house youths in DuPage County. 

DuPage County Board Member Bob Larsen, representative of District 6, has been instrumental in forging the agreement since spring. He said the cost to house youths at the Kane County facility is cheaper because of the larger population.

In a prepared statement Nov. 9, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said that the State of Illinois by law is required to pay a portion of the detention center's $3 million operating budget. However, the facility has a $400,000 deficit after years of the state failing to meet that obligation. 

To operate an effective program at the detention center, DuPage County would need to restore the $400,000 to the budget and an additional $230,000, according to the Oct. 25 finance committee meeting minutes. The partnership would potentially save taxpayers $900,000 in the current $1.9 million tax levy, Cronin said. 

The board voted 11-7 in favor of the partnership after board members and residents spoke against it. Reasons for the opposition included:

  • The Kane facility’s lack of outcome data, 
  • Its stricter visitation policy: DuPage County allows residents up to four, 40-minute visits per week; Kane County allows one, 30-minute visit.
  • Kane County's strip search policy.
  • The added cost to transport detainees from DuPage County to Kane County, and back to DuPage County for court appearances.
  • The jobs lost: Employees of the detention center will be re-trained to replace adult probation officers at the Judicial Center.

The agreement passed the finance committee last month, where committee members provided a report detailing the partnership. According to the report, Kane County may be able to provide data in the future on admitting charges, repeat detention stays or gang involvement.

Siobhan Burke, an Aurora resident who convened a meeting for those opposed to the partnership Monday in Wheaton, asked the board last week how they’d measure the value for their dollar when Kane County has no way to measure the success of its detainee program. 

“Yes, it’s cheaper to warehouse kids in Kane,” Burke said. “But you have to ask yourself at what point do they reoffend? We don’t know. There is no cost effectiveness measure, so we don’t know what works.”

Hilary Denk, an attorney and Downers Grove resident, said at a Nov. 15 public hearing on the FY 2012 budget that the agreement would be an unfunded mandate for municipal police departments that transport detainees, and that there is no evidence to support how it will save taxpayers' money. "It could even cost more," she said.

Cronin said at the Nov. 8 meeting he was proud the board would be doing the “right thing” by passing the agreement with Kane County. He said in a prepared statement that the partnership achieves what taxpayers demand, "it provides quality public services in a way that makes better economical sense.” 

Larsen, who said Tuesday that the DuPage detention center has run a great program, said at the Nov. 8 meeting, “I think we made hard decisions about how we spend taxpayers’ dollars … it’s not always the easiest thing to do.” He said after visits to both facilities, he worked to forge the agreement in the interest of properly protecting the children of DuPage County.

District 4 representative J.R. McBride said he also visited both facilities. He commended both, “They’re (DuPage) a wonderful group. The kids were respectful and I have to say the same thing happened out at Kane.”

While the decision was also difficult for McBride, “We’re talking about a small group of children for a short amount of time,” he said.

He added that Kane County’s Juvenile Detention Center was built as a regional facility, which provides services to youths from DeKalb, Kendall and McHenry counties.

The maximum length of a resident’s stay in the DuPage County facility is 13 days, according to the finance committee report. The maximum stay in Kane County is 19.5 days. Kane County, which currently houses 48 residents, will commit to providing 25 beds for DuPage County residents in its facility equipped for up to 80 residents. 

DuPage County’s 87,000-square-foot facility was built in 1999 to house up to 96 juveniles, with 46 full-time employees, according to the release. As of July 2011, the DuPage facility houses 23 residents, with staffing for 28 residents, according to the finance committee report.

The board could change the decision for the partnership by amending the line item in the FY 2012 budget to restore the funds needed for the facility when the board votes Nov. 22, according to McBride.

The contract will need to be approved by Kane County and it is estimated the transition would take place in 2012, according to the release.

The board meets to vote on the budget Tuesday, Nov. 22, at the DuPage County Board building, 402 County Farm Road, Wheaton. 

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