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