Illinois Juvenile Justice Reforms in the News

joliet juvenile attorney

Illinois has been working on juvenile justice reform for some time and has made significant strides in recent years. A primary goal has been to reduce the number of juveniles held in detention through the use of alternative punishments, the theory being that locking up juveniles does more to create career criminals than to give youth the education and experiences that would help them to envision and work toward a better life.

Reducing the Number of Juveniles Held in Detention Facilities

Illinois police make over 30,000 juvenile arrests each year. About one third of those arrests result in at least one day spent a local detention facility. But the number of delinquent youth locked in one of the state’s five secure juvenile facilities has declined significantly over the past 15 years, from about 2,000 to just over 500. All juveniles in secure facilities have committed felony offenses, and their average stay is about six months.

Policy changes introduced in 2016 have also reduced the time juveniles remain in supervised Aftercare upon release from detention (the juvenile equivalent of parole). Previously, all youth were assigned to Aftercare until they were 21 years old. Today, Aftercare lasts just 6 to 18 months, depending on the felony class.

Raising the Age Limit for Juvenile Court

A bill introduced in the Illinois legislature in February 2018 would change the definition of a minor, raising the age at which a youthful offender would remain within the juvenile court system. Today, anyone arrested before they turn 18 is processed as a juvenile. Under the proposed law, anyone who committed a misdemeanor before the age of 21 would remain in the juvenile system. Misdemeanors include offenses such as possession of small amounts of cannabis, first-time DUI, low-value shoplifting, and trespassing.

The higher age limit is premised on scientific research indicating that the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and decision making is not fully mature at age 18 and in fact continues to develop into the early 20s. One claimed benefit of processing more individuals as juveniles is that the juvenile system provides more opportunities for education and job training. Another benefit is that young people who have not yet finished their education would have a sealed juvenile record rather than a public criminal record, which limits housing, employment, and other opportunities in adult life.

Trust an Experienced Joliet Juvenile Defense Attorney

If your child has been charged with a crime, you should contact a knowledgeable Will County juvenile defense lawyer as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba will thoroughly investigate the details of your child’s situation and recommend the best defense strategy. We can also help clear your child’s record via expungement or sealing. Contact us at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation; phone calls are answered 24 hours a day.