Officials pleased with station-adjustment management

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Title

Officials pleased with station-adjustment management

Subject

Crime, Policing, and Gangs, Civil Rights

Description

The Regional Planning Committee is making great strides in keeping youth out of the Criminal Justice system.

Creator

Mary Schenk

Date

24 January 2010

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No

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Photo by: Vanda Bidwell

Peer court volunteers, from bottom left clockwise, Miles Ross, adult leader Hattie Lenoir-Price, Michael McCulley, Jarel Jackson and Terrish Catchings prepare for a series of hearings at last week's Peer Court session at the Bookens Administrative Center in Urbana.


URBANA – Area police and the county's chief prosecutor are pleased with the efforts of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission in trying to keep youthful offenders out of the criminal justice system.

So-called station adjustments have been employed by police for ages, but for the last six months in Champaign County, the RPC has been delivering the services formerly done by individual police agencies under one roof.

The Access Initiative program is paid for by a combination of grants and a quarter-cent public safety tax approved by Champaign County voters in 1998 – the same pot of money that paid for the courthouse and the juvenile detention center. Five percent of the annual tax is earmarked for juvenile delinquency prevention.

Figures supplied by County Administrator Deb Busey show that the tax has generated anywhere from $4.2 million to $4.5 million in the last four fiscal years, meaning around $210,000 has been available for services to keep children out of the court system.

"The intent is to try to put all the front-end services together in one place," said Peter Tracy, executive director of the Mental Health Board, the body charged with deciding how the tax money is spent. "(RPC reviews) all the juvenile cases and make decisions about what kinds of diversion programs serve them best.

"I think (RPC) is doing a real good job. One of the good things about this is since we have everything working together and in cooperation with the state's attorney, we now have a picture of what everything looks like," Tracy said.

Darlene Kloeppel, manager for the program, said the RPC is spending about $235,000 on the diversion program this year. The fiscal year started July 1.

Of that amount, about $141,300 is from the quarter-cent sales tax. The rest is from grants from Urbana, Champaign, Rantoul, the RPC's Community Block Services and the in-kind work of volunteers.

The court diversion services program uses a mix of approaches to keep young-sters, ages 10 to 16, who have committed their first crime from being formally charged.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz explained that after police decide a minor is a candidate for a station adjustment, an appointment is set up with a counselor, a police officer, the minor and his family.

"It could be for shop- lifting, a curfew violation, vandalism, fighting at school," said Nita Collins, a case manager for the diversion program.

Rietz explained that the RPC employees do a mental health evaluation to determine if services are needed.

The counselor decides if the minor just needs to do public service work, appear in front of peer court, or make restitution.

If the family needs more intensive services, they may be referred to Parenting with Love and Limits, a six-week workshop for parents and children aimed at improving communication and relationships. A station adjustment can last from 30 to 120 days.

"As long as they cooperate and complete whichever program they're referred to, a report is never sent to my office and no charges are filed," Rietz said.

Although the program is intended for first-time offenders, under Illinois law a child 16 and under can receive up to four station adjustments, Rietz said.

Police look at a minor's history of contacts and the nature of his or her crimes in deciding whether to issue a station adjustment or make an arrest and recommend the filing of criminal charges.

Rebecca Woodard, supervisor at the RPC for the diversion program, said since July, 130 minors have been referred to it.

Of that number, she said, 31 have had their cases closed successfully; 27 are in progress; 33 have been scheduled but haven't started services; 29 have been referred back to the police agency that sent them; 10 have failed.

Minors who don't take advantage of the diversion services risk being criminally charged.

Police are thrilled that the station adjustment responsibility has been taken from them, especially in a period of dwindling resources.

"Before this, my detectives were tasked with finding counseling and all the different services (a youth might need.) Those changed so often it was hard for us to keep up with what was available for at-risk youth. My detectives are not social workers," Champaign police Lt. Joe Gallo said.

Champaign had used the RPC to administer its station adjustments since 2006 as sort of a pilot program to what is now in place.

Urbana police Lt. Bryant Seraphin had a similar observation.

"In the past we had access to other help programs, but it would be up to some poor police officer to figure that out," Seraphin said. "RPC now makes that assessment.

"That's a huge benefit to police because we investigate crimes. We're not so good at counseling ... or dealing with ongoing family problems."

BY THE NUMBERS

The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission reports police departments have made 130 station adjustment referrals since July 1. The breakdown:

Champaign: 68Urbana: 25Rantoul: 11Champaign County Sheriff's Office combined with other communities in county: 26

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Citation

Mary Schenk, “Officials pleased with station-adjustment management,” eBlack Champaign-Urbana, accessed June 15, 2019, http://eblackcu.net/portal/items/show/245.

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