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Police ask Illinois lawmakers to protect youth funding, programs

Published: Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:34 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 9:17 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – With state budget cuts looming in the coming year, law enforcement officials from across Illinois made a case Thursday for more funding, but it wasn’t a request to funnel more dollars into their own departments.

A group of about a dozen police chiefs, sheriffs and state’s attorneys asked lawmakers to maintain or increase funding for child and youth programs.

They say it’s an effort to be on the “front side” of crime by supporting kids before they enter a life of crime.

“Once kids start down this path, they very rarely deviate,” said Tyler Edmonds, a state’s attorney from Union County in southern Illinois. “They end up encountering the juvenile justice system and soon after that, they end up in criminal court and, ultimately, in prison.”

As lawmakers have begun their annual process of apportioning state funds in recent weeks, a host of officials from state agencies have made pleas to lawmakers asking them to spare them from cuts.

Officials requested to keep funding flat for early education, home visiting and after-school programs, as well as the state’s juvenile justice Redeploy program, a preventative program that aims to reduce the youth incarceration rate by targeting teens considered “at risk” for behavior that could send them to prison.

State revenues are expected to dip by about $1.5 billion dollars if the temporary income tax increase expires as scheduled in January 2015.

A number of Democrats are seeking to keep the increase in place, arguing that cuts would hurt the most vulnerable. But Republicans want the increase rolled back, arguing that they would be better stewards of taxpayer dollars.

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