Illinois Legislative Black Caucus: Don’t forget our youth when drafting the budget

after school program photoSpringfield – A recent study conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab revealed that summer youth employment initiatives supported by members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus resulted in a decreased amount violent crime during summer months. Violence prevention programs provided jobs for thousands of at-risk youth during the summer months.

Participants held a variety of jobs, ranging from camp counselors to administrative aides. A majority of the participants were from neighborhoods where unemployment rates exceed 19 percent.

“Providing our youth with alternatives to being in the streets is necessary to ensure the next generation has the chance to thrive,” said Senator Emil Jones III, Chairman of the Senate Black Caucus. “I hope Governor Rauner will take note and make funding for summer youth employment programs a priority.

Representative LaShawn Ford, Chairman of the House Restorative Justice Committee believes summer jobs programs keep at-risk youth from entering the correctional system by having alternative activity that helps them develop life and career skills.

“Housing an inmate in Cook County jail costs around $45,000 per year as opposed to the summer Youth Employment Program that costs around $3,000 per year per participant,” Ford said. “Summer employment saves taxpayers money in the long run.”

Last year, the program provided employment and job skills training for more than 4,000 youth who worked part-time at partnering local businesses, government offices and non-profit organizations.

“The summer months are primarily when we see a spike in crime across the city. If we want to see continued reductions in crime and create a stronger workforce, summer youth programs are where we can get our highest return on investing in our youth,” said Black Caucus Chairman Senator Kimberly A. Lightford.

The study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that violent crime arrests decreased by 43 percent for teens who were employed and received support from mentors.

“Violent crime is incredibly regressive in its impact—it takes the greatest toll on society’s most vulnerable,” said Roseanna Ander, Executive Director of the Crime Lab. “There is far too little policy and research attention, as well as precious few resources focused on adolescents, especially those from disadvantaged neighborhoods who are really struggling.”

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