relationships aimed at advancing those limited areas of compatibility. In the end, Illinois’ success
in achieving significant reforms at the state and local levels over the last decade is a testament to
the wisdom of the MacArthur Foundation’s vision of insider-outsider cooperation and to the
transformational power of public/private partnerships.
Nonetheless, one can legitimately ask whether many of the changes that Illinois has made
to its juvenile justice system would have taken place without a strong cadre of juvenile justice
advocates consistently pushing for reform and accountability from the outside.
101 The reality for
all system reform efforts is that while some system partners have a genuine desire to improve the
functioning of their programs and are open to working with anyone who shares their common
goals, other system representatives are hesitant to work with “outsiders” for a number of reasons,
including philosophical differences, political considerations, a natural resistance to change,
consuming workloads, and/or a fear of criticism.
102 Ultimately, a key takeaway to emerge from
Illinois’ experience is that reform efforts are rarely an either/or proposition, and that meaningful
change is most likely to occur when non-state actors continuously exert pressure on public systems
headed by strong, forward-looking leaders who are committed to quality improvement and who
are willing to institutionalize reforms in the units of government over which they hold sway.
E. Be Bold
One of the benefits of systems reform over project or program-based approaches is that it
allows reform agents to identify and tackle the largest problems in a system rather than focusing
exclusively on improving smaller pieces.
103 This global approach requires reformers to study and
understand the entire system and to develop clear goals around outcomes that realistically can be
achieved, measured and communicated. Having a bold vision, however, does not mean that change
will come easily. Often major shifts in policy require a change in culture, and culture change takes
time. In Illinois, some of the state’s most significant achievements were the product of incremental
approaches that involved small steps toward a larger goal. Illinois’ ability to raise the age of
juvenile court jurisdiction and eliminate most forms of transfer, for example, each began with a
discrete effort to collect and analyze relevant data.
104 Data is important not only because of what
it can reveal about the nature and scope of an issue, but also because it provides an objective basis
for fashioning workable policy recommendations and for lending credibility to calls for systems
105 An approach that proved effective in Illinois for responding to skeptics of change was
101 Although Illinois Models for Change grantees did not engage in litigation, some Illinois agencies were required to
change their policies and practices as a result of lawsuits brought by other reform advocates. See, e.g., M.H. v. Monrail,
Case No. 12CV8523 (N. Dist. Ill. 2012),
pdf (in which a class action lawsuit challenging Illinois’ juvenile parole revocation was settled); R.J. v. Jones, Case
No. 1:12-cv-7289 (2012), http://www.aclu-il.org/r-j-v-bishop22/ (settling a suit challenging conditions, services and
treatment in Illinois’ Department of Juvenile Justice).
102 See Robert G. Schwartz, PROMOTING AND SUS TAINING DE TENTION REFORMS 26 (identifying “[b]acklash, burnout,
departures, and the erosion of shared values” as impediments to sustaining reform). See also Wesley G. Skogan, Why
Reforms Fail, 18 POLICING & SOC. 23–33 (2008)(laying out reasons that efforts at reforming police organizations fail).
103 See Kathleen Shaw, Challenges in Evaluating Systems Reform, 1 THE EVALUATION EXCHANGE 1, 2 (1995)
(distinguishing systems reform where the ultimate goal is to improve the lives of those affected by the system from
smaller-scale program improvement initiatives).
104 See supra note 23 and accompanying text; supra note 46 and accompanying text.
105 See Florencio (Larry) Ramirez, Juvenile Delinquency: Current Issues, Best Practices, and Promising Approaches,
AM. BAR ASSOC. (2008),