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Illinois juvenile inmates are being held in youth prisons beyond their release dates as the state struggles to find appropriate transitional living programs and halfway homes.
Nearly 10 percent of the inmates in Illinois' juvenile prisons have completed their sentences and are trapped in the system because they have nowhere to go, the Chicago Tribune reports.
This crisis is unfolding as the state's plan to merge the Department of Juvenile Justice with the Department of Children and Family Services has been delayed. Both departments share many of the same bureaucratic functions, which have not allowed any hiring for expanding needed programs for youth.
The lack of aftercare services for to troubled juvenile inmates has kept many of them in youth prisons for months and in some extreme cases a year beyond their release date.
Other complications including unacceptable homes to return to or family and friends unwilling to take them back leaves many juvenile inmates stuck behind bars.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois says it is unfair to leave youth locked up in juvenile prisons because the state does not have resources for transitional living programs. Youth need to be housed where they can get supervised treatment and leave for work and school, according to the ACLU.
The Department of Juvenile Justice has a budget of $132 million and oversees the state's youth prisons.
Many youth advocates say, the state could take better care of juvenile inmates, focusing less on punishment during their extended prisons stay.
Lawmakers are hoping to meet with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as soon as April 13 to address issues within the state's youth prison system.