Home News Center Illinois Makes Strides: Funds Juvenile Defense, Limits Detention, Expands Parole Eligibility

Illinois Makes Strides: Funds Juvenile Defense, Limits Detention, Expands Parole Eligibility

January 23, 2019
Alyson Clements

NJJN member, Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI) worked in coalition with Illinois advocates to successfully pass legislation to fund juvenile defense and restore parole while also raising the minimum age of detention in Cook County.

“Each of these are huge steps in the right direction,” said JJI Policy Director and Youth Justice Leadership Institute Alum, Garien Gatewood.

On the front end, JJI was instrumental in moving two key reforms.  On the local level, JJI helped pass an ordinance in Cook County that eliminates the use of detention for youth under 13.  The County instead sends youth to the least restrictive alternative available.  On the state level, JJI shephereded a funding measure that fully funds the Illinois Juvenile Defender Center.  “We had kids being sent to adult prison, simply because they didn’t have access to quality defenders in Southern Illinois,” said Gatewood.  The new funding will ensure all youth have access to an attorney trained in juvenile matters and creates a “strike force” to represent kids in urgent matters.

But that’s not all JJI was up to this past session.  On the back end, JJI helped to create parole eligibility for youth. “For the last 40 years, youth in Illinois have had no option for parole.  That all changed with the passage of HB 0531, a bill spearheaded by Restore Justice IL and backed by JJI,” said Gatewood.  “Illinois had a prison review board, but there was no parole eligibility, even for youth under 18,” Gatewood clarified.  “While we would have liked the bill to go further, this is a huge first step in allowing young people full access to parole hearings in Illinois for the first time in 40 years.”

So what’s next for the advocates at JJI?  “This coming year, we are really focused on extending the Cook County ordinance statewide.  We are working on legislation to eliminate the use of detention for all Illinois youth under 13.”

Keep an eye out for more from JJI!

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