A great day for juvenile justice reforms

Gov. Quinn Signs Bill Extending Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to 17-year-olds Charged with Felonies

Reform Will Bring Illinois in Line with Most Other States

Also Signs Bill to Help Bring Redeploy Illinois to Cook County

Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed legislation raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds charged with felonies – a reform advocated to promote rehabilitation, public safety, fairness and fiscal responsibility.

House Bill 2404 is the second step in a reform process that began in 2010 when 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors were moved from adult to juvenile courts where the youth are more likely to receive rehabilitative services. Earlier this year, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission released a 2-year study of the impact of the misdemeanor change and recommended Illinois join 38 other states that place17-year-olds charged with felonies in juvenile court.

Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the bill does not alter felonies currently subject to automatic transfer of youth to adult court.

“The juvenile court has demonstrated a proven ability to hold youth accountable while reforming their behavior,” said Elizabeth Clarke, President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative. “Young people receive age-appropriate services and continue their schooling and are far more likely to change behaviors for the better than they would if locked up in a prison far from their families.

“We commend Gov. Quinn for signing this bill, which is in line with findings of research into development of the adolescent brain, as well as sound fiscal reasoning,” Clarke said. “Juveniles, who are developmentally less competent than adults, can and do change behaviors and better decisions when they mature. This legislation will help them make those changes sooner and not suffer setbacks that often happen to youth spending their days and nights in prison cells.”

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, Sen. Heather Steans and Senate President John Cullerton were the chief sponsors of HB 2404, which had broad-based bipartisan support and was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers. “The bipartisan sponsorship and support for this bill is commendable,” Clarke said. “They put kids above politics in Illinois, the home of the world’s first juvenile court.”

Supporters included the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, ACLU of Illinois, Catholic Conference of Illinois, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Illinois African American Commission, Illinois PTA, DLA Piper, Enlace Chicago, Metropolis Strategies, YMCA of Illinois, and the John Howard Association.

“To prevent reoffending and to keep our communities safer, 17-year-olds deserve the protections and the treatment solely available in the juvenile court,” Clarke said. “By allowing more 17-year-olds into the juvenile system, Illinois will give more youth a chance to get back on the right track.”

To see HB2404, visit the public act here.

For additional background on HB 2404, go to the Juvenile Justice Initiative website here.

The Juvenile Justice Commission’s report about raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction is available here.

Clarke also thanked the Governor for signing HB 2401, which would allow Cook County to begin a Redeploy Illinois, a juvenile diversion program, targeted to a specific neighborhood such as a police district or group of police districts. Current law requires a countywide proposal, and targeting Redeploy to a smaller area is a more manageable way to introduce Redeploy into Cook County, Clarke said.

Under Redeploy Illinois, participating counties agree to reduce the number of juveniles sent to state prisons by at least 25 percent and in exchange receive state funds to provide rehabilitative services to youth in their home communities.

“Operating in 28 counties, Redeploy Illinois is receiving national recognition for its success — reducing prison commitments from those counties by about one-half and saving the state about $40 million between 2005 and 2010,” Clarke said. “It’s time to bring those services to Cook County, the state’s largest county and arguably most in need of the diversion services.”

Chief sponsors of HB 2401 were Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy and Sen. Patricia Van Pelt.

To see HB2401, visit the public act here.

For more information about HB 2401, go here.