New laws in Illinois seek to ‘right-size’ juvenile justice system

Illinois lawmakers say a series of legislative reforms this year will help “right-size” the state’s juvenile justice system. The bills were signed into law in July. Under SB 1560, minors will not be committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses, and minors cannot be detained in a county jail for “status offenses.”

HB 3718, meanwhile, gives judges more discretion on how to sentence minors. For example, they can take various mitigating factors into account: maturity level, presence of a developmental disability, home environment, history of childhood trauma, prior criminal record and potential for rehabilitation.
In addition, juveniles in Illinois charged with certain felony offenses will no longer be automatically prosecuted in adult criminal court.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice analyzed the different methods that states use to transfer juveniles to adult courts. One is “automatic transfer”: granting criminal courts exclusive jurisdiction over certain classes of cases involving minors. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota (murders only), South Dakota and Wisconsin all had automatic transfer laws, the federal study found. Some states, on the other hand, leave the transfer decisions to local prosecutors or juvenile courts.
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Stateline Midwest: July/August 20153.49 MB