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Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 10:13 am

Letters to the Editor 12/09/10

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The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice holds about 1,500 youth offenders between ages 13 and 20. Illinois Times reported in April that low staffing levels mean youth rarely get the attention or education they need while incarcerated.

JUSTICE FOR JUVENILES
When I was inducted in June as president of the Illinois State Bar Association, I made a commitment to work closely with our association members to reform our woefully inadequate juvenile justice system. Sadly, our state spends far more annually to incarcerate youth (a staggering $100 million) than it does on youth prevention and intervention programming (a mere $3 million).

Illinois has two model programs that could be expanded. The Redeploy Illinois initiative receives state funds to provide comprehensive services to delinquent youth in their local communities. In the 23 counties which have Redeploy sites, it is working successfully. A relatively small increase in Redeploy funding could have a big impact.

The other state program is the Mental Health Juvenile Justice Initiative, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Some 66 percent of youths in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable psychiatric condition. Based on the program’s initial success – it grew from four to 34 counties – it should be expanded.

Shifting financial resources to community-based programming will be a real gift, not only to our youth but to our communities. It will produce better outcomes for youth in conflict, ultimately reduce the tax burden of incarcerating youth, and make our communities safer.

Mark D. Hassakis
Mt. Vernon
President, Illinois State Bar Association 2010-11



ADOPT-A-PET

I was disappointed to see the article “Charity says ‘No, thanks’” in the Dec. 2 issue of Illinois Times. The one-sided piece is not up to Illinois Times’ usual standard of hearing both sides of any issue.

Did the reporter speak with any other volunteers? Does she disregard the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s inspections (not just this year but historically)? Was she willing to hold her opinion piece (for that is truly what it was and, on top of that, not her own opinion but that of two disgruntled volunteers) to drive an hour to Benld to see Adopt-A-Pet itself with Jackson before publishing such a lopsided article? Apparently not.

Adopt-A-Pet finds homes for 800-1,000 animals a year. Some come to them seriously damaged, physically and psychically, and are terrified to leave the comfort of the shelter. That does not mean they are not given up for adoption. In fact, two longtime canine residents were just recently adopted, but Jackson and her staff made sure they were going to exceptional homes, not just to “average” adopters.

Jackson has been rescuing animals for nearly 30 years. She has a very strong no-kill philosophy, and anyone who works in rescue, as I have since 1991, will tell you some dogs cannot go to just anyone’s home but need special care.

I know that Jackson and her staff provide the best conditions they can afford for their charges. Rather than flailing out against her, those who love animals should support her work and that of other shelters, help to raise funds, spend some time socializing the animals and donate as much as they are able.

Rose Hutches
Springfield



CIVIL UNIONS

The recently approved civil union legislation has brought forth a myriad of opinions on the subject. The Catholic church has weighed in, espousing the religious aspect of this legislation. Since the church has had its issues with same-sex sex, I would think that the church would remain neutral on this issue.

The thrust of the legislation is more toward the civil side of this debate. The primary focus is in allowing every U.S. citizen the freedom assured by the Constitution having to do with sexual preferences. The other issue that relates to this is the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The idea that a person whose sexual preferences will direct his actions is ludicrous. We have no way to know how many people with different sexual orientations have served under cover in the past years without incident. The whole hubbub about this is as relevant as the ability of politicians to tell the truth.

Michael Abrams
Springfield


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