Cook County Board President Toni’s Preckwinkle top criminal justice reform priority was signed into law today.
House Bill 3718, which was championed in Springfield by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, and Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, will greatly reduce the number of juveniles who are automatically transferred to adult court. The bill restores judicial discretion in nearly 70 percent of cases that are currently automatically transferred to adult court.
The legislation also requires data tracking and reporting on cases involving transfer and will bring Illinois into compliance with federal reporting requirements on disproportionate minority contact and transfer.
HB 3718 is one of four juvenile justice bills, focused on “right-sizing” the system, which were signed today by Gov. Rauner. All were supported by President Preckwinkle this session.
“This is a great step in restoring judicial discretion and eliminating ‘one-size-fits-all’ policies in our justice system,” Preckwinkle said. “After submitting to the misguided pressures of tough on crime, Illinois is once again establishing itself as the leader in juvenile justice.
“Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Nekritz, Sen. Raoul and our broad list of partners in government -- along with the advocacy, civic and service provider communities -- more youths in Illinois will have the right to a fair hearing in front of juvenile court judge to decide whether they should be tried as an adult or are better suited for the rehabilitative nature of juvenile court.”
Rep. Nekritz said, As the national debate over sentencing policies continues, I'm proud that Illinois has taken a leadership role. These bills represent the most significant sentencing reform in our state since the abolition of the death penalty. This is a first but important step in right-sizing our prisons.
“For most juvenile offenders, especially those who have committed non-violent crimes, we see better outcomes and lower rates of recidivism when they are able to live in the community and attend school, rather than being detained in a facility far from home,” said Sen. Raoul . “I’m grateful to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her chief of staff, Kim Foxx, for their work in eliminating the automatic transfer of minors to the adult court system, and to Department of Juvenile Justice Director Candace Jones for helping pass sweeping reforms within the Department.”
After being promoted by President Preckwinkle and moved forward by Rep. Nekritz and Sen. Raoul, the bill eventually gained unprecedented support from the Cook County State’s Attorney and the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association.
The law had a drastic disproportionate impact on children of color, a problem that plagues the justice system at all levels. “Automatic transfers were the most extreme example of disproportionate impact,” Preckwinkle said. “It is promising to see that we there is consensus to reverse some of the laws that have such a dramatic impact on communities of color.”
In addition to automatic transfer reform, the governor also signed:
· Senate Bill 1560, also championed by Sen. Raoul and Rep. Nekritz, which prohibits youth from being sent to juvenile prison for misdemeanor offenses and limits a juvenile’s time on parole after being released;
· House Bill 2567, which requires administrators to seek a community-based alternative before accepting youths 10-12 years old into juvenile detention; and
· House Bill 3141, which requires public reports from the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice regarding expenditures and data regarding the youth in its custody.