OIG Audit Finds That the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center Cannot Reliably Determine Whether It’s Reducing Youth Recidivism in Chicago, Due to Inadequate Record-Keeping and a Lack of Collaboration Between Chicago Police Department and Department of Family and Support Services

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit of the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (JISC). JISC is a partnership between the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) implemented to divert youth who are arrested for low-level offenses away from the juvenile justice system. JISC serves 10 of the City’s 22 police districts and covers an area comprising most of the West and near South Sides. The objectives of OIG’s audit were to determine if JISC is designed according to best practices for law enforcement-based youth diversion and if JISC’s administration of diversion programming is consistent with its goal of reducing youth recidivism.

OIG concluded that, due to poor record-keeping and a lack of collaboration, program partners CPD and DFSS cannot reliably determine whether JISC is meeting its stated goal. As a result, the City cannot determine whether over the past 14 years it has created positive or negative outcomes for over 3,000 youth processed each year, nor calculate the return on its $5 million annual investment in the program. Additionally, some components of JISC’s design do not align with best practices for youth diversion programs. Further issues found in the audit include:

• JISC has no charter, memorandum of understanding, or governing board to establish goals and accountability measures. Moreover, CPD and DFSS have different visions for JISC and have found it difficult to come to a shared understanding of the program’s purpose and goals;
• The case management agency overseen by DFSS did not keep complete and consistent case records, and CPD destroyed youth screening records in violation of the Local Records Act;
• The program does not follow best practices for youth diversion, subjecting youth to a negative experience that does not encourage their success;
• JISC staff is appointed based on seniority, rather than experience or aptitude for working with youth, and they receive no specialized training;
• JISC is not likely leading to more youth arrests, but may send some youth to case management who would otherwise have been diverted entirely; and
• While JISC is diverting many youth from court, we discovered inequities concerning which JISC arrestees were diverted from further involvement in the justice system.

OIG made several recommendations that focus on improving JISC’s multidisciplinary strategy, record-keeping, and data quality procedures in order to allow for proper review of the program:

• CPD and DFSS should create an agreement concerning JISC that establishes shared program goals between all partner agencies, delineates each entity’s responsibilities and accountability measures, allows for data sharing, and creates a uniform set of reporting standards to allow for a program assessment of JISC.
• DFSS should ensure that the case management agency develops written policies and procedures to ensure consistent data entry among users.
• CPD should replace the current JISC risk screen with an empirically validated risk screening tool that is easy to score and has clear written protocols for its use.
• CPD should implement and enforce a written policy for collecting and retaining risk screen forms, ensure it doesn’t destroy records, and create controls to ensure that electronic data is accurately completed in its database.
• CPD, along with DFSS and the case management agency, should take steps to develop the JISC facility into more of a diversion and services center, and less like a police station or lock-up.

CPD and DFSS mostly agreed with OIG’s recommendations and have begun implementing them, with both departments willing to collaborate more consistently and efficiently to better accomplish the JISC’s mission. However, CPD did not confirm whether it intended to notify the Local Records Commission of its failure to retain JISC risk screening forms per the Local Records Act.

“CPD and DFSS have not operated the JISC in a manner that allows for a reliable assessment of whether it is achieving the intended goal of reducing youth recidivism. However, committing to following best practices, improving data quality procedures, and more aligned and integrated interagency collaboration will position the JISC to more effectively serve its purpose,” said Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “We must ensure that JISC arrestees don’t go further into the criminal justice system than necessary. We must also ensure that the City institutes a fully trauma-informed and culturally competent process in order to eliminate the potential inequities encountered by at-risk youth and to decrease the likelihood of reoffending. The departments agreed with our findings, but it’s crucial that data collection and retention efforts are improved, and that CPD is no longer destroying critical program case records that inform the JISC program nor violating the Local Records Act. We are encouraged by commitment to reliable data tracking, evaluation, and reporting, as well as the convening of an advisory council by the Mayor’s Office to oversee JISC reform efforts. We are hopeful that CPD and DFSS will put into practice our recommendations, as may and should be further informed by the solicitation and incorporation of insights from community stakeholders and experts, to help JISC align with best practices and ultimately accomplish its mission to reduce youth recidivism.”

The full report can be found online at OIG’s website: bit.ly/JISCAudit.

OIG will also be hosting a community presentation about the JISC Audit on Wednesday, February 26th at Thomas Kelly College Prep (4136 S. California Ave) at 4:00 PM. The event is open to the public and we welcome those who are interested in learning more about the report and discussing the issues and findings.

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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: www.igchicago.org.