5 staff injured after assault at youth center in Harrisburg - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

5 staff injured after assault at youth center in Harrisburg

Five staff members were assaulted at the center. Five staff members were assaulted at the center.

Five staff members were assaulted and injured after a scuffle with youth at the Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg.

According to Randy Milligan, president AFSCME union, it happened around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 25. 

He says five IYC staff were injured in a scuffle with around 15 youth offenders.  Two of the IYC staff had to be treated at a local emergency room.

"But I've been here 15 years and it's the worst it's ever been," said Randy Milligan.

It was called a "major alternation" by Milligan.

"We've already seen our population grow by 40-percent," said Milligan. "We've not had any new employees to help us with that situation."

That makes what happened last week more common, according to Milligan.

"From time to time we will have two to three kids fighting," said Milligan. "But when you get these kinds of numbers, it's more serious than what you can imagine."

And Milligan fears things may only get worse.

"You know they talk about saving money, I don't see the money saving situation here," Milligan said. "We are running the highest overtime we've had in years. Our count is up high. Yet they say one thing and their actions showing another."

Milligan is referring to the closings of centers in Murphysboro and Joliet.

The Department of Juvenile Justice continues to tell Milligan they are adequately staffed.

"I work here every day," said Milligan." I worked overtime last night. I will probably work overtime tonight. Those comments are coming from someone 200 miles away that hasn't been here."

The Department of Juvenile Justice released a statement saying IYC-Harrisburg is close to capacity, but not overcrowded.

"DJJ has not seen an increase in incidents due to any pending closures," Jennifer Florent, a spokeswoman, said.

Florent points to the numbers. She says the department reported 32 incidents in September 2011. In July 2012, the department reported 31 incidents.

Here is the entire statement from Florent:

"As you may know, the juvenile justice population in our state has dramatically declined since 1991. In fact, we are at a historical low in population of youth in facilities. Programs like Redeploy Illinois and DJJ's aftercare model are helping make sure that youth have access to programs and services they need to prevent them from coming to DJJ on the front end or, once released, to help them successfully re-enter their communities. (Redeploy is an example of a diversion program run through DHS; DJJ aftercare is a re-entry model that develops plans with the youths' family, school and local service providers to give youth the services they need to be successful when they return home.)

DJJ's eight facilities have the capacity to house approximately 1,500 youth. With our numbers now just under 1,000 youth, we simply no longer need – and can no longer afford – all eight facilities. We worked with the Governor's office to develop a plan that utilizes six facilities, further develops our community capacity and aids in strengthening youth outcomes and public safety. The six remaining facilities give us the strongest portfolio – geographically, programmatically and from a safety perspective to best serve youth in our care. 

We work to minimize the number of incidents that occur in our facilities and work with both our staff and youth on de-escalation techniques to help them respond to issues more positively and safely.  DJJ has not seen an increase in incidents due to any pending closures.  Our approach to discipline is to provide a rehabilitative environment for youth to become productive members of society, but also an environment with structure that holds youth accountable for their actions.  Evidence-based research, including a recent Annie Casey Foundation report, shows that this approach is more effective in ensuring safety and providing better outcomes for youth than approaches commonly used in adult corrections. DJJ's goal is to provide a safe environment for both youth and staff, and we work diligently towards that end."

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