Governor Signs Transfer Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Elizabeth Clarke
August 4, 2015, 847-894-4206

New Law Will Require Individual Review of Decision to Try Children age 15 and Children age 16/17 charged with certain offenses in Adult Court

Law Taking Effect on January 1st Will Address Disparities and Poor Outcomes by Requiring Individual Review

CHICAGO – Beginning January 1, Illinois juvenile judicial authority to review the critical decision of whether to prosecute a child under the age of 18 in adult court will be expanded to include children age 15 and children charged with certain offenses including armed robbery with a firearm, under HB 3718 signed today by Governor Rauner (Public Act #99-0258). The bill had strong bi-partisan support, and addresses one of the most critical issues in juvenile court – how to decide to try a child as an adult – by restoring the requirement that the decision be made on a case by case basis for more children – requiring a juvenile court judge to examine all relevant factors including the child’s role in the offense and the child’s mental health and educational background. Specifically, the bill requires a juvenile court hearing in cases involving fifteen year olds, and in cases of older youth charged with certain offenses.

Currently in Illinois, a child can be automatically transferred to adult court simply based on their age and the charge against them, as determined by the State’s Attorney within hours or days of arrest. With automatic transfer, the child never appears before a juvenile court judge and is denied an individual review of the circumstances of the case as well as consideration of the rehabilitative services available in the juvenile court system.

The Juvenile Justice Initiative has consistently tracked the impact of automatic transfer in Illinois and has found that automatic transfer disproportionately impacts children of color and traps children in the adult criminal system who subsequently end up with their case dismissed or convicted of lesser offenses.
• Between 2010 – 2014, 580 children were transferred to adult court in Cook County, and of those, only 4 were white.
• In addition, approximately 11% of the children transferred were later re-charged with a lesser offense that wouldn’t have triggered automatic transfer in the first place but they remained in adult court, and
• Of the 257 children transferred between 2010 – 2012, half of those convicted were either recharged or found guilty of lesser offenses that would not have triggered adult court in the first place needlessly leaving them with an adult conviction and sentence.

These findings show that automatically making the critical decision to try a child in adult court, based solely on age and charged offense within hours of arrest, leads to poor outcomes and profound racial disparities. As former U.S. Senator Paul Simon put it, “[Automatic transfer policies] are failed policies.”

A thorough review of all transfer research by the federal Centers for Disease Control concluded that children tried in adult court are 34% more likely to reoffend than their counterparts tried in juvenile court for the same offense, and with similar prior records, and are more likely to commit more serious crimes and at a faster rate. The reforms in this bill are consistent with the CDC recommendations to ensure the critical transfer decision is made on an individual basis and after thorough review of all relevant factors.

The automatic transfer laws have been on the books since the late 1980’s, and this bill represents the beginning of a shift back to judicial review of the decision to try a child as an adult. This bill does not eliminate transfer to adult court, nor does it eliminate all instances of automatic transfer. It expands the discretion of juvenile judges to make the transfer decision (after hearing both sides of the case and reviewing the rehabilitative services available to the child) to include children ages 16-17 charged with armed robbery with a firearm, aggravated vehicular hijacking and unlawful use of a weapon on school grounds, children age 15 and younger charged with any crime and other provisions as outlined in the attached fact sheet for the bill.

Posted on our website (www.jjustice.org) is our report on automatic transfer and our recently released one page summary update to the report.

This bill was sponsored by Nekritz-Currie-Gabel, Flowers, Guzzardi, Mayfield, Welch, Burke, Evans, Jr., Harris, Ammons, Lilly, Turner, and Bellock in the house and Raoul-Collins-Connelly-Trotter, Rezin, Nybo, Muñoz, Mulroe, Harris, III, Bush, Van Pelt, Delgado, Holmes in the senate. The bill passed out of the Senate on a vote of 48-6 and passed the house on a concurrence vote of 79-32.

This bill was the key initiative for President Toni Preckwinkle, and thanks to her leadership together with the lead sponsors Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Sen. Kwame Raoul, the bill restores some sense of fairness through individual review to the critical transfer decision.

Proponents include the Illinois State Bar Association, the PTA of Illinois, the Union League Club of Chicago, the Cook County Board President, law enforcement (Cook County State’s Attorney and the downstate Prosecutors’ Association) and numerous additional organizations and individuals.

Finally, this bill responds to concerns expressed by the Illinois Supreme Court in People v. Patterson , 2014 IL 11502 where the Court concluded:
“We….share the concern expressed in both the Supreme Court’s recent case law and the dissent in this case over the absence of any judicial discretion in Illinois’s automatic transfer provision. While modern research has recognized the effect that the unique qualities and characteristics of youth may have on juveniles’ judgment and actions (see, e.g., Roper, 543 U.S. at 569-70; infra ¶ 156), the automatic transfer provision does not. Indeed, the mandatory nature of that statute denies this reality. Accordingly, we strongly urge the General Assembly to review the automatic transfer provision based
on the current scientific and sociological evidence indicating a need for the exercise of judicial discretion in determining the appropriate setting for the proceedings in these juvenile cases.”

Please contact the Juvenile Justice Initiative at (847) 864-1567 for additional information.

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