OIG Follow-Up Finds That the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center Has Taken Steps Towards Improving Its Youth Diversion Programming

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its February 2020 audit of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Department of Family and Support Services’ (DFSS) administration of the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (JISC). A major goal of JISC’s programming is 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––covering an area comprising most of the West and near South Sides––at an annual operating cost of almost $5 million. Based on the departments’ responses, OIG concludes that CPD, DFSS, and the Office of the Mayor have fully implemented 12 of the 24 corrective actions related to the audit findings, substantially implemented 3, partially implemented 6, and not implemented 3.

The objectives of OIG’s 2020 audit were to determine whether JISC was designed according to best practices for law enforcement-based youth diversion and whether JISC’s administration of diversion programming was consistent with its goal of reducing youth recidivism. OIG found that due to poor record-keeping and a lack of collaboration from program partners, the City could not reliably determine whether JISC met this goal. Additionally, some components of JISC’s design did not align with best practices for diversion programs, which may retraumatize youth or increase their likelihood of reoffending.

OIG made several recommendations to improve JISC’s multidisciplinary strategy, record-keeping, and data quality procedures, including that the departments create accountability mechanisms for JISC’s case management contractor and establish partnerships with external agencies. We also recommended that CPD and DFSS engage with community organizations, subject-matter experts, and criminal justice system stakeholders to align JISC’s design with best practices for diversion programs and to provide a more trauma-informed experience for youth. Finally, we recommended that CPD select and train its JISC staff in accordance with best practices, use a validated risk screen to determine diversion eligibility, and ensure that disposition overrides are justified and equitable. CPD and DFSS mostly agreed with OIG’s recommendations. However, the departments stated they would not enact some of the recommended corrective actions because the City planned to replace JISC with a new diversion model in 2022.

Based on responses to the 2021 follow-up, OIG concludes that CPD, DFSS, and the Office of the Mayor have implemented corrective actions related to program goals and responsibilities, performance review procedures, training, and adjustments to the diversion process. Specifically, the City has,

  • defined on-site protocols with other JISC stakeholders that outline shared goals, individual roles and responsibilities, and procedures for reporting and monitoring;
  • contracted with a new case management provider that uses a system with data accuracy controls and outcome tracking and reporting mechanisms;
  • contracted with the University of Chicago Crime Lab to conduct recidivism and outcome analyses;
  • provided written guidance regarding record retention requirements to all JISC personnel;
  • provided training for JISC staff on topics related to youth diversion;
  • engaged with community stakeholders via interviews and workshops conducted by third parties;
  • implemented a process for offering youth services without the threat of prosecution; and
  • informed field officers in JISC districts that they must bring eligible arrestees to JISC.

However, the City has not yet begun using a validated risk screening tool; notified the Local Records Commission of CPD’s failure to retain risk screens; revised the staffing selection process to allow for assigning officers skilled at working with youth to positions at JISC; reviewed case dispositions for patterns in diversions and overrides; or begun recording when youth are handcuffed to stationary objects.

“OIG issued 24 recommendations, which the departments mostly agreed with and committed to, albeit with the caveat that the City plans to replace JISC with a new diversion model in 2022,” said Interim Inspector General William Marback. “While OIG is pleased to see progress, there is still work to do. We urge the City to implement the outstanding corrective actions related to our recommendations. Furthermore, the City should ensure the corrective actions are included in the initial implementation of any new diversion model.”

The full report can be found online at OIG’s website.

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