Seventeen-year-old youth charged with felonies should go through the juvenile court system rather than the adult criminal court system, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission recommended in a report released today.
The report finds that by placing 17-year-olds charged with felonies in adult criminal courts by default, Illinois “is becoming a national outlier, is ignoring research findings about adolescent development and behavior, and is squandering the potential of many of its youth.” In 38 other states, 17-year-olds charged with felonies already go through the juvenile court system.
“It is counterproductive and cruel to impose the lifelong collateral consequences of felony convictions on minors who are likely to be rehabilitated,” the report states.
In 2009, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation to allow 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors to go through the juvenile court system, beginning Jan. 1, 2010. Under the legislation, 17-year-olds charged with felonies would remain in the adult court system until further evaluation could be completed.
The Juvenile Justice Commission found that allowing 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors to go through the juvenile court system rather than the adult criminal court system did not create any of the negative consequences that had been anticipated; for example, the addition of 18,000 misdemeanor arrests to the juvenile court system did not overwhelm the system and public safety did not suffer.