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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | IL

Illinois: 2013 | 2011 |  2010 | 2009 


  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Alternatives to Incarceration Increase in Cook County: Illinois passed legislation to allow for targeted implementation of Redeploy Illinois in Cook County (Chicago). Redeploy Illinois offers counties fiscal incentives to provide alternatives to incarceration for youth. In the 2011 fiscal year, 40 percent of the youth committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice were from Cook County; the majority of these youth could have been eligible for the alternatives provided through Redeploy Illinois. H.B. 2401/Public Act No. 98-0060, signed into law July 8, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Illinois Doubles Funding for Redeploy Illinois: The Illinois General Assembly and governor doubled the funding for Redeploy Illinois, a program established by statute in 2004 to reduce the number of youth incarcerated by the state. Counties participating in Redeploy agree to reduce the numbers of youth they send to state facilities by 25 percent of the average of the previous three years. In return, counties receive fiscal support for serving youth in the community. Redeploy sites have reduced the number of youth commitments by 51 percent since 2006 and the program has saved the state $40 million by diverting over 800 youth from commitment.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Illinois Increases Options for Youth to Be Served in the Community: Illinois passed legislation that gives juvenile court judges discretion to “continue a case under supervision” following a finding of delinquency. A continuance under supervision allows a youth to be served in the community and have his or her record expunged after successful completion of the continuance. Such a continuance was previously only allowed if the youth admitted to the charges against him or her prior to a finding of delinquency. Now, after considering the nature of the offense and the youth’s history, character, and condition, the judge may enter an order of continuance under supervision if he or she believes the youth is not likely to commit future crimes, the youth and the public would be better served if the youth did not have a criminal record, and continuance under supervision is more appropriate than a harsher sentence. Certain serious crimes are ineligible for continuance under supervision. H.B. 3172/ Act No. 98-0062, signed into law July 8, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Conditions of Confinement  —  Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and ACLU Reach Settlement Agreement Regarding Conditions in Youth Facilities: Following a class-action lawsuit on behalf of nearly 1,000 youth filed by the ACLU of Illinois in September 2012, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) agreed to develop a remedial plan to address inadequate and dangerous conditions in state-run juvenile justice facilities across the state. An ACLU investigation found inadequate mental health care and education services, unwarranted use of solitary confinement, use of excessive force by DJJ staff and among youth, and failure to release youth from prison solely because of a lack of community placement. Following further investigation conducted by three independent court-appointed experts, a remedial plan was approved by the court. The plan addresses improving conditions in five areas: (1) mental health services; (2) educational services, including general education, special education, and services for youth with a high school diploma or a GED; (3) the use of room confinement; (4) safety of young people inside the facilities from violence by staff and other youth; and (5) continued commitment of youth beyond their release dates solely for lack of a community placement. case no. 12-cv-07289, R.J. v. Jones, formerly R.J. v. Bishop, consent decree signed December 6, 2012; remedial plan filed April 7, 4014.
  • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Legislature Mandates Collection of Data on Race and Ethnicity: In an effort to gather information on racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system, Illinois now requires the collection of racial and ethnic data at the time of arrest, commitment, and/or transfer from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to the Department of Corrections (DOC). DJJ and DOC must include the data in their annual reports to the General Assembly. S.B. 1598/Act No. 98-0528, signed into law August 23, 2013; effective January 1, 2015.
  • Facility Closures and Downsizing  — Illinois Closes Two Juvenile Detention Facilities: In his 2013 budget, Governor Pat Quinn proposed closing ten correctional facilities, including two juvenile detention facilities, based on a reduction in juvenile incarceration from a population of 1,603 in FY05 to 990 in FY12. The two facilities were shuttered in 2013, and the closures were projected to save the state nearly $21 million dollars in FY2013. The facilities had been operating well under capacity, thanks to policy and practice changes in the state (e.g., Redeploy Illinois) that have increased the number of youth being served in their communities and diverted youth from the justice system.
  • Interrogations and Confessions — Statements Made by Youth During Custodial Interrogations Are Inadmissible in Court Unless Recorded: Illinois law now mandates that any oral, written, or sign language statements of a youth or adult made during a custodial interrogation in murder cases, certain sex offense cases, and cases involving offenses of bodily harm must be electronically recorded in order to be admissible as evidence against the person in a juvenile or criminal proceeding. S.B. 1006/Public Act No. 98-0547, signed into law August 26, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change  —  Illinois Creates Violence Prevention Task Force: The Illinois General Assembly established a task force to assist with violence prevention initiatives. Specifically, the task force is to assist with providing jobs, resources and opportunities for at-risk youth in order to prevent crime; create, develop, and implement recreation, social, and educational initiatives for at-risk youth; provide state resources to public schools to assist with behavioral health; organize community mental health providers in at-risk communities; increase awareness of violence prevention resources in the state; and assist violence prevention groups. The task force must report annually to the governor and General Assembly. H.B. 2879/Act No. 98-0194, signed into law and effective August 7, 2013.
  • Probation, Parole, and Reentry — Illinois Expands Aftercare for Youth in Department of Justice Custody: The Illinois General Assembly expanded aftercare release for youth, allowing all youth committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to be eligible for aftercare, regardless of the length of time he or she has been confined or whether the youth has served a minimum term. Additionally, the law states that youth under aftercare release must be supervised by DJJ; prior to the law, aftercare was not available statewide and was supervised by the Department of Corrections, rather than DJJ. S.B. 1192/Act No. 98-0558, signed into law August 27, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Status Offenses — Illinois Supreme Court Prohibits Incarceration of Youth for Underage Drinking: The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision prohibiting the incarceration of a youth for underage drinking. The Supreme Court’s opinion clarifies that the Juvenile Court Act’s prohibition of commitment of a youth to the Department of Juvenile Justice for a status offense encompasses underage drinking. The opinion reinforces the “statutory policy of promoting the development and implementation of community-based programs to prevent delinquent behavior.” In re Shelby R., 2013 IL 114994, filed September 19, 2013.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Illinois Raises the Age for Youth Charged with Felonies: Seventeen-year-olds charged with felonies in Illinois now come under the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Illinois raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction for youth charged with misdemeanors in 2009, and in 2010 the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission studied whether to raise the age for felonies as well. Finding that the policy change for misdemeanors was a success—public safety did not suffer, juvenile facility populations decreased, and 17-year-olds benefited from the programs and services offered by the juvenile system—the commission recommended raising the age for felonies. The raise-the-age legislation also amended custody restrictions and confidentiality and expungement provisions to align with the jurisdictional change. H.B. 2404/Act No. 98-0061, signed into law July 8, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.


  • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — State Creates Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force: Illinois’ Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force is to determine a practical method for the standardized collection and analysis of data on the racial and ethnic identity of arrested individuals. The task force is to include a representative from the Department of Juvenile Justice, State Appellate Defender, Cook County Public Defender, and other agencies. S.B. 2271/Public Act 97-433, signed into law and effective August 16, 2011.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Legislation Requires Consideration of Community Alternatives to Incarceration in All Juvenile Cases: Legislation now requires juvenile court judges in Illinois to review additional factors before sentencing youth, with the goal of ensuring incarceration is the last resort. The law states that the court may commit a youth to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) only if such commitment is the least restrictive alternative appropriate for the youth. Before finding that secure confinement is necessary, judges must review the youth’s criminal record; any results of behavioral assessments using a standardized assessment tool; the youth’s educational background, including any assessment of learning disabilities; the physical, mental and emotional health of the youth; and other factors, including whether services in DJJ will meet the individualized needs of the youth. H.B. 83/Public Act 97-362, signed into law August 15, 2011; effective January 1, 2012.

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  • International Standards — House of Representatives Urges United States Senate to Ratify Convention on the Rights of the Child: An Illinois House resolution urges the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The resolution also calls upon state agencies in Illinois to ensure that their policies and programs comply with the convention. The resolution recognizes that “children in the United States continue to face considerable hardships,” including incarceration. The United States and Somalia are the only two United Nations members that have not ratified the convention. H.R. 1143, adopted May 4, 2010.
  • Interrogations and Confessions — Law Protects Youths’ Right to Avoid Self-Incrimination: The Illinois General Assembly passed a law prohibiting statements made by youth, parents or guardians as part of any behavioral health screening, assessment, evaluation, or treatment from being used as evidence against the youth in a delinquency or criminal trial. H.B. 6129/Public Act 96-1251, signed into law July 23, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Law Lessens Penalty for Youth Charged with “Sexting”: Illinois law now provides that a youth who distributes indecent visual depictions of another youth may be adjudged a minor in need of supervision. If the youth is found to be in need of supervision, he or she may be ordered to obtain counseling or other supportive services, or required to perform community service. Prior to the new law, prosecutors had to charge such youth under stricter pornography laws, which could lead to designation as a sex offender. H.B. 4583/Public Act 96-1087, signed into law July 19, 2011; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Commission to Develop Plan for Extending Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to 17-Year-Olds Charged with Felonies: The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission is to study and report on possible expansion of the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to include 17-year-olds charged with felonies. The commission’s mandate builds on legislation passed in 2009 that raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 for youth charged with misdemeanors (see above, S.B. 2275/Public Act 95-1031). S.B. 3085/Public Act 96-1199, signed into law July 22, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Probation, Parole, and Reentry — General Assembly Broadens Options for Youth Facing Parole Revocation: Youth found to have violated parole in Illinois now have broader options, thanks to a new state law. Such youth may be continued under the existing term of parole, with or without modification; may be placed in a group home or residential facility; or may be recommitted. The law also instructs the Juvenile Justice Commission to develop recommendations regarding due process protections during release decision-making processes, including parole and parole revocation proceedings. H.B. 5914/Public Act 96-1271, signed into law July 26, 2011; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Law Allows Greater Separation Between Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Corrections: A new Illinois law removes the requirement that the Department of Juvenile Justice share administrative services and facilities with the Department of Corrections. The law additionally encourages collaboration between the Department of Juvenile Justice and “child-serving agencies.” The change helps to further differentiate the adult and juvenile systems, and ensure youth are treated in an age-appropriate manner. H.B. 5913/ Public Act 96-1022, signed into law July 7, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.

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  • Probation, Parole, and Reentry — Juvenile Justice Commission Studies Reentry Issues: Legislation in 2009 directed the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission to study youth who are released from state custody but later returned for parole violations. The goal of the work is to reduce recidivism by youth and improve the safety of their home communities. The commission issued a report in November 2011 based on observations of 237 parole board hearings and review of the records of 386 youth whose parole was revoked between December 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010. The report notes several problems with the current system, and recommends that members of the parole board receive training in juvenile-specific topics; specific criteria be used to determine whether youth should be released, and that youth receive their decisions in writing; the parole board establish criteria that ensure youth are reviewed for release more often than once a year, and that youth can request such a hearing; and youth on parole be supervised by “aftercare specialists” trained to help them obtain schooling, treatment, and employment. S.B. 1725/Public Act 96-0853, signed into law and effective December 23, 2009.
  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Law Prohibits Sending Juvenile Arrest Records to Federal Bureau of Investigation: An Illinois law prohibits the transfer of confidential juvenile arrest records from the Department of State Police to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to further prevent the unnecessary release of confidential juvenile data. The law also improves the process for juveniles with arrests for misdemeanor offenses to clear their records. The law allows youth charged with a misdemeanor as a first offense to file a petition for an expungement review hearing when they turn 18 or at the completion of the sentence, whichever is later. If local prosecutors do not file objections as outlined in the law, expungement will be automatic. S.B. 1030/Public Act 96-0707; signed into law August 25, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Redeploy Illinois Becomes Permanent Initiative and Expands Across State: In April 2009, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law to convert Redeploy Illinois from a pilot program to a permanent initiative that will be accessible to approximately 70 counties that were previously excluded because of their low numbers of delinquent youth. Redeploy Illinois reallocates state funds from juvenile correctional confinement to local jurisdictions in order to establish a continuum of local, community-based sanctions and treatment alternatives for youth offenders. Redeploy Illinois provides funding to counties to deliver individualized services such as therapy, substance abuse treatment, and life skills education. The legislation also encourages the use of restorative measures such as victim offender panels, teen courts, competency building, and community service. The law promotes the belief that youth should be treated in the least restrictive manner possible while maintaining the safety of the public. During the first three years of the pilot program, the four pilot sites sent approximately 400 fewer youth to the Department of Juvenile Justice, a reduction of 51 percent in these sites. On average, the eight Redeploy sites in Illinois reduced their commitments in 2010 by 53 percent from their baseline levels. According to the per capita cost of incarcerating one youth in the Department of Juvenile Justice, this decrease in commitments translates to a cost avoidance of over $9 million for the state of Illinois. S.B. 1013/Public Act 95-1050, signed into law April 7, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.
  • International Standards — Chicago City Council Passes Resolution in Support of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: On February 11, 2009, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution in support of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), agreeing to “advance policies and practices that are in harmony with the principles of the [CRC] in all city agencies and organizations that address issues directly affecting the City’s children.” Chicago joined ranks with nine other cities and two states that had already passed resolutions in support of the CRC—the first comprehensive international treaty that protects children by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. A diverse coalition of children’s rights advocates and organizations led the effort to pass the resolution. The coalition’s work is part of a national effort to build grassroots support for human rights treaties and to put additional pressure on the federal government to ratify the CRC, which has been ratified by every member of the United Nations except the U.S. and Somalia.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Law Raises the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction from 17 to 18 for Youth Charged with Misdemeanors: Seventeen-year-olds charged only with misdemeanors will now have their cases heard in juvenile court, rather than adult criminal court. The juvenile court typically takes a more balanced and rehabilitative approach— offering mental health and drug treatment and community-based services—as opposed to the more punitive approach of the adult system. The law will also help to address the disproportionate number of 17-year-old African American and Latino youth who are currently charged as adults. S.B. 2275/Public Act 95-1031, signed into law February 10, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.

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Photo: Kay Schlumpf, under Creative Commons License.