A recent Illinois Juvenile JusticeCommission (IJJC) report recommendsraising the felony age to 18 in Illinois.
The report urged state policymakers to reclassify 17-year-olds as juveniles within the state’s legal system. While a 2010 General Assembly act changed the state’s 17-year-old misdemeanants to juvenile court jurisdictions, youth of the same age who commit felonies are automatically transferred toIllinois’ adult system.
“To promote a juvenile justice system focused on public safety, youth rehabilitation, fairness and fiscal responsibility,” the report reads, “Illinoisshould immediately adopt legislation expanding the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds charged with felonies.”
The IJJC suggested the state alter its policies and raise the adult court jurisdictional age to 18 for both misdemeanor and felony offenses.
“It’s a really well-researched, well-documented and well-substantiated report,” said Commission member and Children and Family Justice Center Director Julie Biehl. “It would be a positive effect to bring those young people who are charged with felonies back to juvenile court jurisdiction.”
“Few states circumscribe judicial discretion so tightly regarding offenders so young,” the report states. “No other state routinely gives more jurisdictional weight to a prosecutor’s initial filing decision than to an offender’s age.”
The report also takes into account that the addition of an additional 14,000 to 18,000 juvenile misdemeanor cases annually will be “absorbable” for the Illinois Juvenile Justice system, and that adding an estimated 4,000 juvenile felony offenses would not only be manageable, but promote “uniformity among system actors.”
“Illinoiscan achieve better long-term outcomes for 17-year-olds, public safety and the state economy by expanding juvenile jurisdiction,” the report reads. “Current legal and scientific trends are clear: by putting all felony-charged 17-year-olds in criminal court by default,Illinoisis becoming a national outlier, is ignoring research findings about adolescent development and behavior and is squandering the potential of many of its youth.”
“A legislative compromise led to the decision of the General Assembly to put 17-year-olds with misdemeanor charges in the juvenile system and those with felony charges in the adult criminal court,” said George W. Timberlake, who is Chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and retired chief judge of the Second Judicial Circuit. “Before the law changed in 2010, anyone over the age of 16 was subject to the adult system, which is far less rehabilitative and carries an adult criminal record. The compromise was better than leaving all 17-year-olds in the adult system, and now that the research demonstrates the system can manage the addition of 17-year-olds charged with felonies, it’s time to complete the reform.”
YOS could not agree more with the IJJC report! Our own Executive Director Rick Velazquez serves as a gubernatorial appointee the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.
To read the full article click here.