Changing Course: A Review of the First Two Years of Drug Transfer Reform in Illinois

 

“Illinois led the nation in the creation of “automatic” transfers to adult court, and now it is leading the nation again in reversing course and demonstrating success from the reversal. Elizabeth Kooy, a former employee at the Juvenile Justice Initiative, collected data and studied impact of automatic transfer reform.

Some of her findings include:

  • In 2003, prior to the transfer law change, Cook County automatically transferred 361 youths to the adult court system for trial. In that year, 62.5 percent were charged with drug offenses
  • In 2003, 99 percent were African American or Latino and 1 percent (4 youth) were Caucasian. None of the Caucasian youth were charged with a drug crime.
  • The first year after PA 94-0574, the number of youth automatically transferred in Cook County went down by approximately two–thirds, from 361 in 2003 to 127 in 2005-2006.
  • Cook County experienced no increase in discretionary, presumptive, mandatory, or extended jurisdictional juvenile prosecutions in either the first or second year.
  • PA 94-0574 did not have an adverse effect on public safety.

This report documents the positive impact of the reform and calls for further review and reform of the transfer statutes.
The research described in this report was made possible by the Models for Change: Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and preparation of this document was supported by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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