THANK YOU TO ALL who made the  JJI fundraiser a success!

LEGISLATIVE DISCUSSION:  Many thanks to Justice Reform legislative leaders State Senator Laura Fine, State Reps Robyn Gabel and Rita Mayfield shared their visions for a reimagined justice system for children.
You can listen to their comments here: LEGISLATIVE PANEL
FUNDER DISCUSSION:  Many thanks to Kelly Suzanne Saulsberry of the Woods Fund and Nate Balis of the Annie E Casey Foundation who shared their goals to end the deprivation of liberty of children and expand human rights to all our children.
You can listen to their comments here: FUNDER PANEL

2022 – JJI Victory –  IL House of Representatives unanimously passed JJI sponsored resolution for In Person court hearings for children at risk of deprivation of liberty.  

H.R. 616 urges the IL Supreme Court to exercise its authority to require courts throughout Illinois to responsibly transition to in-person hearings where children’s liberty interests are at stake.  Read the resolution: HR 616

NOTE – Two summits organized by JJI (in 2021 and 2022) featured speakers who highlighted the negative impact on children’s rights from the use of remote technology. You can view a recording of the 2021 Summit at Protecting Children’s Rights in a Digital World


HIGHLIGHTS from WORLD CONGRESS on Juvenile Justice Nov 15-19, 2021

  • Virtual hearings are an issue globally – a small study of system involved children in Ireland found they were severely negatively impacted by virtual court, didn’t understand what was happening and found the technology frustrating. Speakers urged that states adopt SAFEGUARDS to support children’s participation. 
  • Jurisdictional boundaries are rising globally as nations set reasonable minimum ages for criminal prosecution. The North American regional plenary included Lisa Jacobs from Loyola Univ. Chicago who outlined the national campaign to end criminal prosecution of young children in the U.S. and the developmental research supporting a non-criminal approach to accountability for children under the age of 14. Later Lael Chester of the Justice Lab at Columbia Univ described the positive results from Vermont’s experience incrementally raising the upper age to 21 while simultaneously expanding restorative justice approaches to young adults in conflict with the law.
  • JJI’s participation on a panel on reforms in Child Justice in Three States focused on IL’s experience incorporating children’s human rights into state law and practice, and the challenges remaining including with the right to access to a lawyer from the first contact – see IL Experts at Global Conference
  • Shifts to restorative justice are worldwide and rapidly evolving. Several sessions focused on Restorative Justice (Canada, Albania and Kosovo, Netherlands) along with an overview of a European two year restorative justice project (i-RESTORE) and announcement of a book release Restorative Justice from a Children’s Rights Perspective.
  • European experts presented on the Council of Europe’s free online courses on children’s rights and human rights for legal professionals (HELP – Child Rights Online Courses )
NEW STUDY – More than 45,000 children released from detention globally during the pandemic.This new global study on the impact of the pandemic on detention of children is particularly encouraging as it shows it is possible to end detention of children.
OVERALL – The scale of human rights violations in the US, based on systemic racism, is unprecedented worldwide, but can be mitigated by incorporation of child rights into developmental approaches:
  • 1.A reasonable minimum age of criminal responsibility (CRC Art. 40) + strengthen early intervention and diversion
  • 2.Define children as under 18 (CRC Art 1 – no child under 18 prosecuted/sentenced in adult court) + respond to the well-being and developmental needs of all children under age 18
  • 3.Removal from home a last resort (CRC ART 37) + expand alternatives to detention
  • 4.Inclusion of children’s voices – support restorative processes within schools and communities
Unfamiliar with Children’s rights? Review Convention on the Rights of the Child – CRC


THANK YOU to Governor and Legislative Supporters of Restorative Justice!  GOVERNOR SIGNED SB 64! Read JJI’s Letter to Governor explaining why Restorative Justice Practices Critical for IL.

Dear Governor Pritzker – …We support your initiative to transform our statewide system of justice for children [IDJJ 21st Century Illinois Transformation Model] and believe that Senate Bill 64 is a necessary component of the transformation as it will encourage the expansion of restorative justice practices that your administration has embraced as part of a reimagined system of justice for children.  The legislation consists of a modest reform – it creates a legal privilege for communications in restorative justice practices. Similar to the long-standing legal privilege in mediation proceedings, the restorative justice privilege would simply prohibit communications made in restorative justice practices from being used in court. While the legislation is modest and straight-forward, it is essential to encourage participation in restorative justice practices.”

Read the full letter:  SB64 JJI letter to Gov



March 31, 2021

  1. END DETENTION of Young Children and LIMIT DETENTION to last resort (HB3767 Rep. Gabel/SB65 Sen. Peters) See fact sheet: https://jjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/Det-Ref-March-23-fact-sheet.pdf
  1. RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PRIVILEGE (HB3248 Rep. Ammons/SB64 Sen. Peters) Establishes a privilege for communications made during restorative justice proceedings. This bill makes things said or done in a restorative justice practice, including the fact of the restorative justice practice, privileged and inadmissible in later court proceedings. See fact sheet:https://jjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/RJ-fact-sheet-March-23-2021-.pdf
  1. RAISE THE AGE to BEGIN CASES of YOUNG ADULTS w MISDEMEANOR in JUVENILE CRT (HB111  Rep. Mayfield)– Amendment will limit to 18 year olds w misdemeanor charge and delay effective date by one year.  See fact sheet: https://jjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/RTA-SB2385-HB111_133-March-24-2021.pdf



  • Children locked up before trial who were too young and/or charged with conduct too minor to be sentenced to juvenile prison after trial.
  • FOUR TIMES as many children locked up before trial, as held in juvenile prison after trial.
  • Profound Racial disparities.

ILLINOIS NEEDS TO GIVE CHILDREN FACING TRIAL THE SAME RIGHTS AS CHILDREN AFTER TRIAL.   Read the report here: PreTrial Detention of Children During the Pandemic in IL copy

READ JJI’s LATEST REPORT on Failures in System Automatically prosecuting/sentencing Children in Adult Court:  Transfer Report 2020

The Juvenile Justice Initiative announces the release of their latest report on the transfer of juveniles to adult court in Illinois.  The report looks at the effects of the 2015 reform by the Illinois legislature limiting “automatic” trial of juveniles in the adult court, based solely on age and offense.  



JJI Testimony JISC Audit June 23, 2020

CHICAGO SUNTIMES echoes JJI’s call to close JISC (juvenile booking station in Chicago) 

“The purpose of JISC was to keep kids who screw up, but mostly just need help, from getting sucked into the juvenile justice system. It hasn’t worked out that way. “   By CST Editorial Board  Jun 28, 2020, 8:00am CDT. JISC – Close It

Read letter from JJI and juvenile justice advocates calling for closure of JISC: JJI JISC Letter


READ JJI’s Sign On Letter to Legislature re Justice System Reforms (Sept. 2020)... https://jjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/JJI-Reforms-Letter-9_15.pdf


HUMAN RIGHTS REFORM – CHICAGO – CITY AND COUNTY RESOLUTIONS Chicago Human Rights for Children Resolution   Calls for all government agencies affiliated with juvenile justice to review and compare their policies to recommendations by Convention on Rights of Child and Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.    Cook County Resolution: Cook County Children’s Human Rights Resolution


Testimonials from IL policymakers on viewing youth prisons in Germany in 2019:

CHILDREN in Conflict with the Law need protections – especially during COVID-19 Pandemic.   The Juvenile Justice Initiative has advocated for the release of children from detention and prison, and for protections for children in conflict with the law:

May 7, 2020 – JJI organized letter from advocates to Cook County Chief Judge Evans urging individual detention review hearings upon request by Public Defender:  Letter to Judge Evans

Response from IL Supreme Court: ILSupCrt 4-27-2020

April 15, 2020 – JJI organizes plea by advocates to IL Supreme Court urging protections for children awaiting trial in detention.   Read the letter here: April 15 Letter to Court        Among the actions urged by JJI and juvenile justice advocates are the following: We, the undersigned, urge the Court to direct local juvenile courts to take the following actions to protect children in conflict with the law:

  • Stop new admissions to juvenile detention placement facilities. Unless youth pose an immediate and substantial risk to public safety, alternatives to out-of-home placements, including placement at home with terms and conditions, should be the default response. 
  • Release as many young people from detention as possible. This includes young children (those under the age of 14), and all children who do not present a substantial public safety risk. Illinois courts should immediately release all young people in detention for low level  property offenses, for failure to appear in court, and for technical probation violations.
  • Release children at risk of COVID-19: Illinois courts should also release youth who have pre-existing conditions, including asthma, that may make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 symptoms, as well as youth who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms themselves. These youth should not be released to other congregate care settings where the virus can spread; the default should be a presumption that the youth will return to a family member or guardian’s home. Agency officials should take steps to ensure that youth have a place to live, have a plan to meet their basic needs, have a plan to receive medical care, and have immediate access to Medicaid.
  • Revise juvenile probation policies to include the immediate suspension of any detention for technical violations, and early termination of probation and electronic monitoring orders. 
  • Revise electronic monitoring policies to ensure it is used sparingly, if at all,  and only in response to immediate and substantial risks to public safety that outweigh the safety risks to probation staff inherent in the application and supervision of the devices.   
  • Suspend fines. The collection of any court, detention or probation fees should be suspended indefinitely.
  • Ensure transparency.   Juvenile courts who oversee detention facilities and juvenile probation services should be required to inform the public of their use of these extraordinary powers, especially during this crisis.  The public needs to know how many children are in detention, as well as their age and the reason for their loss of liberty in this crisis. 


JJI 3/18/2020 Statement on COVID-19 Response – End Detention under age 14 & End incarceration low level/technical violations.

In light of the global outbreak of COVID-19, the Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI) urges the immediate adoption of two basic international human rights protections for all children and young adults in conflict with the law – end detention of children under the age of 14 and end incarceration for low level property and technical violations.  Read the full press release here: Press Release COVID-19 March 18 2

JJI – Release Incarcerated Kids in IL – Media coverage JJI press release.

Time to End Prosecution of children and adolescents in adult criminal court.

Four ways America gets it wrong in prosecuting alleged teen offenders

The United States leads developed nations in punitive, cruel and inhumane practices against children and adolescents who come into conflict with the law. By Elizabeth Clarke  Aug 26, 2019, 2:45pm CDT



MANY THANKS to the speakers, moderators and attendees who made our June 5th Emerging Adult Justice Forum so inspirational.

We are grateful to our international counterparts who shared their multi-decade commitment to the guiding principle of human dignity in the justice system.

We are grateful to the Justice Lab at Columbia University for their leadership and collaboration.

We are grateful to our IL stakeholders who traveled to Germany and reported on their experience, particularly noting the transformative impact and success of a system based on human dignity.

We learned that Germany and Croatia consider prison the Last Resort for juveniles and emerging adults – as a result, they have far lower incarceration rates than in the U.S. We learned that German sentences for emerging adults rarely exceed 5 years.

We learned that applying juvenile sentences to emerging adults in Germany result in dramatically lower repeat offending rates than the U.S. adult sentences (25% vs U.S. rates of over 70%).

We learned that human dignity in prisons in Germany means extensive educational and vocational programming, single cells, sufficient reading materials, unrestricted access to radio and TV, right to vote, self- catering, unsupervised visits. and respect from prison staff.

We learned that staff in prisons in Germany are carefully selected and highly trained – two years training – and that assault, let alone disrespect, of prisoners is not tolerated, period. We heard from a Croatian Judge that the U.S. issues with mass incarceration in our juvenile justice system result in part from our failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The forum was one step forward – now we must build the political will to ensure that all children and emerging adults receive humane treatment when in conflict with the law.


To read the full report, CLICK HERE.

View more highlights from the report and additional research and resources on the JJI “Emerging Justice” page,  HERE.

To view more information on SB 239 – A bill that begins cases of older teens charged with misdemeanor offenses in juvenile, rather than adult court – click the following link: SB 239 Fact sheet



View more highlights from the report and additional research and resources on the JJI “Juvenile Detention Alternatives and Mass Incarceration” page,  HERE.


JJI – Recommendations for Justice Reform

Illinois has been at the forefront of JUVENILE JUSTICE reform for the past two decades, as this work continues we hope to reframe the justice debate. Below are JJI’s recommendations for the new gubernatorial administration, you can view the full transition report here.


1. End automatic adult prosecution, leaving intact statute that allows the prosecutor to petition to transfer any child age 13 and older charged with any offense – juvenile court judges will review prosecutor’s petition(s) and decide whether to keep a child in juvenile or transfer to adult court.

2. Raise the age of juvenile court to 21.

3. End detention of children under the age of 13.Reimagine Justice

4. Require a juvenile court hearing on the issue of detention within 24 hours for every child in Illinois.

5. Close IYC Harrisburg and IYC St. Charles.

6. Fully fund Redeploy Illinois.

7. Expand the requirement of a lawyer for every child throughout interrogation – especially in any case that could end in adult prosecution.

8. Ensure confidentiality protections for restorative justice proceedings.

Thank you to all who were able to attend and celebrate the 2018 Pastor Ron Taylor Justice for Children Honorees Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, Sen. Christine Radogno and Father David Kelly at our Statehouse & Community Together event at DLA Piper! To see photos from the event please follow the  Statehouse and Community link!

JJI Campaigns to end the detention of elementary school age children in Cook County:

Cook County, the home of the world’s first juvenile court, continues its leadership in juvenile justice reform with the passage of Cook County ordinance  18-4955 ending the use of detention for children under the age of 13.

Cook County Ordinance  18-4955 (Com. Suffredin) raises the age of detention in  Cook County from 10 to 13 – with a delayed effective date to give communities time to plan for alternative services and placement. The Cook County Board voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance on September 12, 2018.

With the adoption of the ordinance, Cook County is a leader in justice reform for the state and the country.

  • Consistent with National Standards – Annie E. Casey’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) standards prohibit juvenile detention facilities from holding youth under the age of 13.  
  • American Pediatrics Association. finds Confinement as a Child has lifelong adverse health consequences – A new study by the American Pediatrics Association (APA), How Does Incarcerating Young People Affect their Adult Health Outcomes, concludes that youth who are incarcerated have poor health outcomes as adults including adult depressive symptoms from incarceration for less than a month.
  • The lifelong negative impact of detention is especially triggered by incarceration at the pre-teen stage. 

To read JJI’s press release click here.

For a link to Cook County Ordinance 18-4955’s fact sheet click here.

JJI Report on Juvenile Detention

The Juvenile Justice Initiative has released a report addressing the need for state realignment of policy and investment to create fiscal incentives for alternatives to juvenile detention.     The report is available at JJI Detention Report May 4, 2018   According to the report:

  • Counties overbuilt – In the 1990’s, twelve counties built new or expanded existing detention centers, believing their populations would expand.   Yet, by 2016, all twelve counties had average daily populations below the number of beds in the 1990’s before expansion.
  • Detention is harmful – research demonstrates poor outcomes from detention including increased behavioral health issues, decreased graduation rates, and increased repeat offending.
  • State dollars encourage the use of detention by reimbursing counties for detention staff salaries.
  • No state support of alternatives – There are no state dollars or incentives to encourage alternatives to detention.
  • Most counties do it right – The majority of counties in the state rarely use detention, and counties that invested in detention alternatives have been able to significantly reduce the number of youth in detention – with lower repeat offending and better outcomes.
  • There is no state oversight, no standard practice, and little transparency.
  • Racial and ethnic disparities are quite pronounced.

The findings of this report offer additional evidence that juvenile detention is a failed model. Juvenile detention leads to higher repeat offending levels, lowers high school graduation rates, and results in more psychiatric disorders. Ultimately, Illinois must rethink its current investment in juvenile detention. Our state dollars supported 85% of juvenile detention personnel in 2017, but there was no state incentive to encourage the development of alternatives to detention. Community-based programs, like Redeploy Illinois, have successfully reduced the use of incarceration after trial – we need a similar fiscal incentive to reduce detention before trial.

It is our hope that the research and recommendations in this report will lead to improved policies and practices that will enhance public safety while expanding alternatives to juvenile detention.

70 percent of the young people arrested in Illinois are dealing with mental health issues

April 9, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Seven in 10 juveniles arrested in Illinois have underlying mental health issues, and advocates are urging lawmakers to offer them treatment rather than jail time.

According to the report “Stemming the Tide,” 30,000 young people have been arrested and 11,000 incarcerated in the state. Public Defender Amy Campanelli is calling on lawmakers to implement a diversion plan like the one that’s been successful in the Miama-Dade area in Florida. (via public news service) 

For a link to the full article, please click here.

Illinois Considers Raising the Age for Juveniles Going to Adult Court 

February 26, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Legislation aimed at keeping juveniles on the right track is being discussed by Illinois lawmakers.

Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, introduced HB 4581 this month. It would gradually bump the age that young offenders charged with misdemeanors are sent to adult court from 18 to 21, if the court decides the case does not belong in juvenile court.

Betsy Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, said the adult court can only jail and punish, but juvenile judges can give alternatives to young people who have gotten in trouble. For example, they can steer them towards getting a G.E.D or job training, or place them with a mentor.

“You can really look holistically at what the issues are that are causing the young person to come into conflict with the law, and then address those underlying issues,” Clarke said.

She said the goal is to make sure that punishments for young people who make mistakes don’t make things worse rather than better. The bill has been assigned to committee for study and will be heard in the next couple of weeks. (link to article listed below)


For a link to the proposed bill, click here.

JJI Acknowledges Pastor Ron Taylor

JJI acknowledges the passing of Pastor Ron Taylor. Pastor Taylor was a great man of faith and action, and his loss will be felt around the state of Illinois, and especially in Chicago. Our thoughts are with his family and the UCCRO community.  Pastor Ron Taylor was an honoree at our October 2017 event. Pastor Taylor was instrumental in passing legislation requiring lawyers for young teenagers and children during interrogation.  


Juvenile Justice Initiative’s Testimony on Safety in the Department of Juvenile Justice, December 5th, 2017

(Photo from ProPublica Illinois) 

Link to media coverage of the House Appropriations-Public Safety Committee Hearing-click here.

Link to the ombudsman’s report on IDJJ-click here.


Juvenile Justice Initiative Fall 2017 Newsletter  

(Pictured above: IL Rep. Laura Fine, IL Rep. Arthur Turner, and IL Sen. Patricia Van Pelt at the June 2017 Reimagining Justice for Emerging Adults Summit.)

Thank You For Making Our Event a Success!

JJI Board members and honorees. (Pictured above from left to right: JJI Board Member, Michael Rodriguez; JJI President and Founder, Elizabeth Clarke; Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita B. Garman; Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis; JJI Board Member, Paula Wolff; The Honorable Jesús “Chuy” García; and Pastor Ron Taylor. Not pictured, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke)

For more pictures from the October 5th, 2017 fundraiser, please click here.

Our Goal:

HUMAN RIGHTS for all children in conflict with the law, including lawyers from the first point of contact, full confidentiality, and proportionate dispositions.   

human rights image

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.