Our Current Focus

“RIGHT-SIZING” THE DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE JUSTICE – Illinois is one of the national leaders in juvenile de-incarceration, having reduced court commitments to juvenile prisons by over 73% from a high of nearly 2300 in 1998 to under 600 today.  But we still have more work to do. Recent expert reports on the conditions of Illinois’ juvenile prisons show a broken system that should not be housing our most vulnerable children.  Incarcerated children are not receiving the mental health treatment they need, the education they deserve, and many remain in their cells for close to 24 hours a day without adequate programming or activities.  Read the full reports that were filed in the ACLU lawsuit against the Department of Juvenile Justice here

  • Read JJI’s letter (also signed by the John Howard Association and the ACLU) to Governor Rauner asking him to close Kewanee IYC (juvenile prison), dated October 14,  2015
  • Read JJI’s supplemental letter (also signed by the John Howard Association and the ACLU) to Governor Rauner again asking him to close Kewanee IYC, dated December 1, 2015.

YOUNG ADULTS – JJI was present on Sept. 8, 2015 as the U.S. Attorney General hosted a summit on Young Adults in the justice system, including the release of a paper urging that we raise the age of juvenile court to 21.   As Attorney General Loretta Lynch noted: brain science also indicates that we may have a significant opportunity, even after the teenage years, to exert a positive influence and reduce future criminality through appropriate interventions.  

  • Read JJI’s testimony on ending the practice of trying children in adult court filed November 20, 2015 before the Illinois Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform Commission.
  • Read JJI’s testimony on Young Adults, filed Oct. 30, 2015 before the Illinois Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform Commission.
  • Read JJI’s research on Young Adults in Cook County Jail in 2013 – including the fact that 4,011 admissions of young adults to the jail were for misdemeanor offenses.
  • Read JJI’s testimony filed July 27, 2015 before the Illinois Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform Commission, urging the replication of juvenile diversion and sentencing options for Young Adults.
  • Read commentary in Chicago Tribune urging that the age of juvenile court be raised to 21.
  • Read new national report urging community based responses to justice involved young adults.

FUND COMMUNITY PROGRAMS – JJI urges the Governor and Illinois Legislature to fully fund community based preventative and intervention services for children in Illinois.

  • Read JJI’s statement on the need to maintain community based services in the state budget.

NEW LAWS:  The Governor signed the following bills.   Detailed information on the JJI research and advocacy leading up to passage of these reforms is listed below.

Transfer ReformPublic Act 99-0258 (HB 3718) (Nekritz/Raoul) Automatic transfer reform. Eliminates automatic transfer for children age 15 and under and expands discretion of juvenile court judges to make transfer decisions for 16-17 year olds except for those charged with first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery with a firearm.

HB3718 – a bill to limit automatic transfers of children under age 18 to adult court:

Ending misdemeanor commitments to Dept. of Juvenile JusticePublic Act 99-0268 (Nekritz/Raoul) Eliminates committing children to DJJ for misdemeanors, makes aftercare term same as parole term for adults for same offense, and has other provisions that will help “right-size” the DJJ population.

SB1560 – a bill to ban admitting children for midemeanor offenses and limit aftercare (parole):

Detention Age – Public Act 99-0254 (HB 2567) (Gabel/Steans) Children ages 10-12 cannot be placed in detention unless there is a determination that no placement is available with a community-based youth service provider. Adds one step to already existing detention screening process – making a phone call to see if an alternative placement can be found.

HB2567 – a bill to reduce detentions of children ages 10-12 through community alternatives:



The Juvenile Justice Initiative is a non-profit, non-partisan statewide advocacy organization working to transform the juvenile justice system in Illinois. We advocate to reduce reliance on incarceration, to enhance fairness for all youth and to develop a comprehensive continuum of community-based resources throughout the state.