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Illinois Leaders Urged to Lead Nation in Juvenile-Justice Reform

Research shows teenagers are more like kids than adults. (nih.gov)
Research shows teenagers are more like kids than adults. (nih.gov)
June 16, 2017

CHICAGO – How to keep young people who have broken the law from reoffending is the topic of an all-day forum in Chicago today.

This past session, State Rep. Laura Fine of Glenview introduced legislation to raise the minimum age for juveniles sent to adult court from 18 to 21 but it didn't gain any traction. She says Illinois is home to the first juvenile court in the nation and needs to take the lead on providing more help to kids who have run into trouble with the law.

She says the state needs to find ways to reduce the youth prison population in a cost-effective way that does not compromise public safety.

"Let's look at what's worked elsewhere and figure out what can work best here that will be better for our communities and save the taxpayers' dollar," she says.

Speakers at the conference include judges, state's attorneys, public defenders, researchers, advocates and the director of the Cook County Sheriff's Justice Institute.

Fine says research has shown young adults are more similar to adolescents than fully mature adults, and that most other state systems have taken that into account.

"How do we really address the issue instead of just incarceration? Because this is something that could really be pivotal for so many young lives?" she asks.

A report by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative found that more than 4,000 young adults were sent to Cook County Jail in 2013 for low-level offenses. It recommended using juvenile alternatives for young adults such as counseling and diversion programs in order to reduce reoffending.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL