Breaking the 'felony factory line': prosecutor, chief lobby for funding

News-DemocratMarch 27, 2014 

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, in a 2012 file photo.

TIM VIZER/BND

— St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly and Granite City Police Chief Rich Miller are lobbying lawmakers to prevent funding cuts to programs aimed at preventing crime among juveniles.

Kelly said, "When we find strategies that can pull kids off the felony factory line, and also save significant amounts of money for taxpayers, we need to pay attention. Preventive prosecution and efforts like Redeploy Illinois and other programs for youth are critical for improving public safety."

Kelly and Miller were among about a dozen law enforcement officials who met this week with all four legislative leaders: Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, Republican House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.

The law enforcement officials are part of a coalition called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois. The group is advocating for investments in programs for youths that a proven to cut crime and violence.

The group is asking lawmakers to maintain funding in Illinois fiscal 2015 budget for:

* Maintaining funding for preschool, and starting to restore previous cuts.

Due to repeated funding cuts, the state preschool program has lost 25,000 slots for children in the past five years, according to the group. This works against law enforcement's experience and research that supports the value of preschool, the group says.

* Protect funding for Redeploy Illinois.

The juvenile justice program Redeploy Illinois allows counties to provide accountability and supportive services to juvenile offenders in their own communities, as an alternative to sending them to corrections facilities. Recent data show that juvenile offenders in participating counties re-offend at significantly lower low rates.

* Preserve funding for home-visiting programs to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The group also urged the General Assembly not to cut key child abuse and neglect prevention programs. Cuts to these home-visiting programs, known as Healthy Families and Parents Too Soon, would put Illinois in danger of losing $31 million in federal funding for such efforts, according to the group.

Miller said: "High-quality early childhood education has proven, lasting effects on crime. But thousands of children have lost access to Illinois' preschool program because of cuts. At a time when every dollar counts, programs backed by research to keep kids on the right path in life are the best investments we can make."

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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