Illinois laws which mandate young offenders be charged as adults, if arrested for serious crimes, cause tremendous injustice and result in racial discrimination according to a recent study by the nonpartisan Juvenile Justice Initiative. (The ACLU of Illinois is a member of the Juvenile Justice Initiative Coalition.) The study underscores the need to revamp the state’s 32 year-old laws which limit judicial discretion and which, according to the study, perpetuate, rather than curb, life-long criminal activity by the young offenders caught in the law’s web of injustice. The new study verifies the ACLU of Illinois position that trying youth in adult court has significant negative effects on public safety. The study maintains that defendants who leave juvenile court for adult court lose their best opportunity at rehabilitation, often end in prison with adults and are more likely to be caught in a cycle of recidivism. Of the 257 cases ( from 2010-2012) reviewed in the study, 83 of the defendants who were sent to adult court were black, 16 percent were Hispanic; only one defendant was a non-minority. The most perturbing finding of the study showed that 54 percent of the juveniles were ultimately sentenced for a lesser crime than the one for which they were arrested; a crime infraction that would not have sent them to adult court in the first place. The General Assembly is considering legislation introduced by State Representative Elaine Nekritz to rescind the automatic transfer laws:
"It's putting a common sense process in to have a judge, rather than the General Assembly, make these decisions," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, the bill's sponsor. "The judge is looking at the circumstances of the individual, the circumstances of the crime."