MACON COUNTY, Ill. (WAND) - Illinois leaders met Thursday to talk about the future of the juvenile justice system. Now it's time for them to take what they learned back to their own communities.

When it comes to the juvenile justice system, some state officials say the Macon County area is on the right track.

"Macon County has done a good job of closing its detention center," Juvenile Justice Initiative President Elizabeth Clarke explained. "But unfortunately, it still does detain at a very high rate compared to the rest of the state (and) its children."

Clarke says there's still more that can be done.

"If we can regionalize and make more uniform our use of detention, make it a true last resort, and build up community alternatives," Clarke added. "And, I think Macon is poised to be a leader in this."

Millikin University Director of Criminal Justice Dr. Keyria Rodgers says a coordinating council is in the works.

"It's to focus on the entire family," Rodgers explained. "So, we're looking at domestic violence issues. We're also looking at ways in which people can have a better understanding (of) what's really going on in the home."

Rodgers says the best way to reach the community and one of the council's first steps will be performing a needs assessment.

"If we're going to make any decisions about the community, we don't want to make any decisions about them, without them. They need to be a part of that, and we also need to make sure that they have a voice, and feel that they have a voice. They need to tell us what they're missing. What they need, what's important to them, how do we honestly cater to what it is they're describing. And, that's what we need them to do, is to describe it," said Rodgers.

But community involvement doesn't stop with input. Rodgers says for lasting impact, the community needs to act.

"So that means having them to be a part of our commissions, our coalitions, to be a part of our advisory councils," Rodgers shared. "We need the community's voice in those regards."

Rodgers says easier conversation between the coordinating council and the community will happen in the coming months. She says work is being done to start the process of getting the needs assessments together as well. 

If anyone would like to get involved with these efforts, Rodgers says they can contact the Millikin University Criminal Justice Department at 217-424-6386, the Macon County State's Attorney's Office to 217-424-1400, or Reverend Courtney Carson through email at ccarson@richland.edu.