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Advocates Demand Illinois Release Youth From Juvenile Detention Centers Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Published on: 4/3/2020
“Advocates and correctional officials are calling on Illinois and other states across the country to release youth from juvenile detention facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Harm Instead of Healing: Imprisoning Youth with Mental Illness
Published on: 3/17/2020
More than nine out of ten youth in Illinois prisons have been diagnosed with at least one mental illness, and two-thirds of the youth in state prisons have three or more diagnosed mental disorders. Few of them are receiving the treatment needed to help them overcome or even cope with these disorders.
How to End Racial Bias in Juvenile Justice Risk-Needs Assessments
Published on: 3/6/2020
A recent Child Trends report found that “risk and needs assessments may misclassify youth of color as being high risk, which may perpetuate racial biases in the justice system.” This doesn’t mean a wholesale abandonment of assessments. “Research shows that risk and needs assessments are more accurate at identifying a youth’s level of risk than the professional judgement of justice officials, such as a judge or probation officer.” It does mean that stakeholders must follow the data, raise their awareness, and combat the effects of implicit bias in diversion, detention, and sentencing.
Vicarious Post-Traumatic Stress — Or Why There’s Such A High Rate Of Burnout Among Criminal Defense
Published on: 3/6/2020
“Being exposed to histories of abuse, neglect, poverty, and violence can affect attorneys. According to studies on burnout (referred to in one study with the unfortunate acronym 'BO'), dealing with trauma-exposed clients causes ‘an accumulation of stress and the erosion of idealism characterized by fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, anxiety, irritability, depression, hopelessness, aggression, cynicism and substance abuse.’
A survey done in the early 2000s by Pace University found that in comparing criminal defense attorneys with mental health providers and social service workers (who also work with traumatized populations), the criminal defense attorneys experienced more symptoms of STS than the others.”
Watchdog: A Chicago Program Meant To Help Juveniles May Instead ‘Retraumatize’ Them
Published on: 3/3/2020
The Chicago JISC (Juvenile Intervention and Support Center) was created as an arrest diversion program that connected youth with needed services. Instead, a recent audit reveals that the 14-year-old program fails to follow best practices when working with justice-involved youth and “may actually re-traumatize youth or increase their likelihood of reoffending.”
Rockford Hopes to Disrupt Juvenile Prison Pipeline
Published on: 2/25/2020
A new initiative in Rockford will connect youth who have been exposed to domestic violence and trauma in the home with social services. "Last year, the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, which promotes children’s health and safety, alerted the city to concerns about the number of Winnebago County young people placed with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, a disproportionate number of whom are black."
The Enduring Trauma of Stop and Frisk
Published on: 2/20/2020
“I want to tell you what it is to be ‘stopped and frisked.’ The first time a police officer did this to me, I was 11 years old. As a Black child in San Francisco, I learned early that mine and others’ bodies meant nothing to those supposedly tasked with our protection.”

If you have two minutes to read anything today, make it Jamal Trulove's unflinching look at the most intimate and lasting effects of the over-policing of communities of color, and imagine the children in your own lives.
How Mandatory Minimums Enable Police Misconduct
Published on: 10/8/2019
In this New York Times opinion piece, Brooklyn public defender and policy director Scott Hechinger explains: “In criminal courts throughout this country, victims of police abuse — illegal stops and frisks, car stops and searches, home raids, manufactured charges and excessive force — routinely forgo their constitutional right to challenge police abuse in a pretrial hearing in exchange for plea deals. They do so because the alternative is to risk the steep mandatory minimum sentence they would face if they went to trial and lost. Prosecutors use the fear of these mandatory minimums to their advantage by offering comparatively less harsh plea deals before pretrial hearings and trials begin."
More than 2,000 Adults Who Were Sent as Kids to Die in Prison were Given a Second Chance
Published on: 10/8/2019
9,008 days – In 2016, more than 2,000 adults who were sent as kids to die in prison were given a second chance. Marshan Allen was one of them.
As juvenile defenders prepare for dozens of resentencing hearings throughout Illinois, this Chicago Reader profile reminds us what is at stake: “Allen bears his personal story openly as both cautionary tale and evidence: though people tend to describe what he accomplished while in prison, and since, as exceptional, he views himself as an example. ‘Not the exception, the example,’ he says. He sees thousands of people behind bars whose personal journeys to reform and remorse go unrecognized, people whose potential for creation rather than destruction goes squandered."
Felony Murder Rule for Youth Must be Changed
Published on: 8/20/2019
Editorial boards join the call for long-overdue amendments to Illinois' sweeping felony murder rule, especially as it applies to youth. The opinion pieces followed the Lake County State's Attorney's decision to charge five teens with felony murder after their 14-year-old companion was fatally shot by a homeowner in the course of an apparent car theft.
Life After Miller
Published on: 8/14/2019
Thanks to our friends at the Children an Family Justice Center, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic, for this reminder of how important Miller-Graham resentencing hearings are for youth, the attorneys who represent them,n and their communities.
D.C. Prosecutors, Once Dubious, Are Becoming Believers In Restorative Justice.
Published on: 7/2/2019
D.C. Prosecutors, Once Dubious, Are Becoming Believers In Restorative Justice. “Achieving justice doesn't always involve punishment or retribution — and young people have the capacity for change.” That’s the principle behind a successful new restorative justice division of the D.C. attorney general’s office.
EDITORIAL: The latest evidence against police in Chicago schools.
Published on: 7/2/2019
EDITORIAL: The latest evidence against police in Chicago schools. “Chicago Public Schools need more strategies that don’t rely on handcuffs, Tasers and arrests to manage student misbehavior.”
School-to-Prison Pipeline Must End, Foxx Says
Published on: 7/2/2019
School-to-prison pipeline must end, Foxx says after convening meeting with law enforcement, educators. Chicago stakeholders are exploring more effective alternatives to arresting youth for minor infractions at school.
Why Juvenile Defense Matters
Published on: 4/30/2019
Effective juvenile defense saves communities money, increases public safety, and leads youth to success.
IL Supreme Court Holds that Sentencing Youth to 40+ Years is De Facto Life
Published on: 4/22/2019
The Illinois Supreme Court holds that sentencing youth to prison for longer than 40 years is the equivalent of a life sentence. Read the Court’s full opinion in People v. Buffer.
Chicago Police Dept. Broken Gang Database Needs Reform
Published on: 4/22/2019
The Chicago Office of the Inspector General’s report on the Chicago Police Department’s gang database paints a troubling picture. Thousands of uncorrected inaccuracies. No recourse for those wrongfully placed on the list. And officers who list “turd,” “black,” and “scumbag” as “occupation” on arrest cards. “A system that results in comparatively standardless, inaccurate, and unaccountable stigmatization of residents without due process protections can only further fray the very relationships needed to achieve positive, constitutional, and effective community policing,” said Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “CPD, the City Council, and the Mayor’s Office have to undertake holistic and comprehensive actions to enhance violence reduction efforts, and they have to include community voices in ongoing reforms.” The Cook County Board recently voted to permanently dismantle its own gang database.
Parole Hearings for Under 21
Published on: 4/5/2019
Thanks to the hard work of advocates, bipartisan support, and the Governor’s signature, young people under the age of 21 serving long prison sentences will be eligible for parole in as early as 10 years. The new legislation, Public Act 110-1182, currently applies to those sentenced on or after June 1, 2019.
RFK National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice's New Edition of Its Probation System Review Guide
Published on: 3/5/2019
RFK National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice announces the online availability of the newest edition of its Probation System Review Guidebook, 3rd Edition. The new Guidebook is an important tool for local Juvenile Justice Councils and defenders sitting on those Councils who want to improve outcomes for youth and communities. This resource features the seminal framework that the RFK National Resource Center has used in partnership with twenty-five jurisdictions across nearly one-third of the states and territories to achieve substantial improvements in youth outcomes and system performance. This latest edition includes: an increased focus on the translation of adolescent development into practice; renewed emphasis on resiliency and positive youth development; improved and updated tools and guidance related to risk-needs-responsivity instruments; specific benefits to undertaking a system review; updated jurisdictional examples; lessons learned; testimonials; and many more useful fea
Cook County Dismantles Their Gang Database
Published on: 2/22/2019
The Cook County Board has voted to permanently dismantle the county's gang database.
Advocates have long maintained that the database was over-inclusive and plagued by errors, and unfairly affected youth of color. The Chicago and State Police continue to maintain similar databases.
Michigan Attorney General Argues Sex Offender Registration is Punishment
Published on: 2/11/2019
The Michigan Attorney General has filed an amicus brief in the Michigan Supreme Court arguing that sex offender registration is punishment and that registries should be based on individualized risk assessments. The AG's stated interest in filing the brief: "The Attorney General is charged with defending not only state laws but also the state constitution."
Incarcerated Children's Advocacy Network: Stories of Redemption
Published on: 1/25/2019
Three years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Montgomery v. Louisiana, which extended the protections of Miller v. Alabama to all youth sentenced to life-without-parole. Take a moment to view these stories of redemption provided by the Incarcerated Children's Advocacy Network.
IL Justice Needs Age-Appropriate Approach
Published on: 1/24/2019
Young people ages 18 to 25 are not children anymore, but many are not quite grown up either. When it comes to African-Americans in this population, Illinois has one of the highest incarceration rates in the U.S. New research examines how the state can better help these emerging adults in the criminal justice system.
Cook County Public Guardian Sues DCFS for Treatment of Mentally Ill Youth
Published on: 12/18/2018
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) today was hit with a federal class action lawsuit for locking youth in psychiatric hospitals long past the time that their treatment required them to be confined. Upon being medically cleared for discharge, instead of going to an appropriate facility, the Defendants forced the children to remain in locked psychiatric wards, causing immense harm.
People vs. Aikens Goes to the IL Supreme Court
Published on: 12/18/2018
The Illinois Supreme Court has taken the State's appeal in People v. Aikens, 2016 IL App (1st) 133578. In Aikens, the appellate court held that a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years (20 years for attempt murder of a peace officer plus 20 years for personal discharge of a firearm) was unconstitutional as applied to a 17-year-old youth, because it shocked the conscience and evolving standards of decency under the Illinois Constitution's proportionate penalties clause.
Why IL Won't Ban the Box
Published on: 12/17/2018
Next year, the Common Application used by hundreds of colleges and universities will stop asking potential students about their criminal histories. Despite legislative efforts in Illinois, most campuses in the state continue to ask the question.
IYC Harrisburg Report: Progress & Concerns Regarding Treatment of Youth Within Facility
Published on: 12/12/2018
The John Howard Association has released its report on IYC Harrisburg, outlining both progress and serious concerns regarding the treatment of youth in the facility.
IL Prison Doctors Dispense Anti-Psychotic Medication to Youth for Common Behavioral Problems
Published on: 12/12/2018
Illinois Prison Doctors Dispense Anti-Psychotic Medication to Youth for Common Behavioral Problems.
IL Supreme to Appoint to New Committee on Juvenile Courts
Published on: 11/15/2018
The Committee is tasked with reviewing and making recommendations on matters affecting juvenile law and juvenile courts, including child protection and delinquency systems. The Committee will review, analyze and examine the impact of legislation and case law as it relates to juvenile law and procedures and any aspect of the juvenile court process.
How Long of a Sentence is too Long for Young Offenders?
Published on: 11/14/2018
The Champaign News-Gazette has published an editorial on the Illinois Supreme Court’s procedural rejection of the as-applied challenge to a de facto life sentence for 18-year-old Darien Harris in People v. Harris, 2018 IL 121932
Chicago Ban on Detaining Minors Under 13 Headed for Appeal
Published on: 11/13/2018
The Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance in September prohibiting the placement of children under the age of 13 in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. In October, Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Toomin, declined to follow the ordinance, finding that the Illinois Juvenile Court Act’s minimum age of detention – 10 years old – controls. The court stated that “none of the 15 Juvenile Court judges ‘subscribe to the notion that detention is an appropriate placement for young minors,’ ” but noted a lack of adequate placement alternatives for the youngest of children.
Life without Parole for Children Ruled Unconstitutional
Published on: 11/2/2018
The landmark decision makes Washington the 21st state (plus DC) to ban the sentence, meaning a majority of states now ban or do not use it

October 18, 2018, Washington, DC –– Today, the Washington State Supreme Court handed down a decision in State of Washington v. Brian Bassett, in which it ruled that sentencing children to life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional, thereby banning this inhumane sentence in that state. (Read an amicus brief filed by the Juvenile Law Center with input from the CFSY here).

Washington is now the 21st state, plus the District of Columbia, to ban sentencing children to life without parole — in 2012, only five states banned the practice. For the first time in history, a majority of states ban or do not use life without parole for children. Included in that majority are “blue” and “red” states alike, such as Arkansas, Utah, Nevada, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and California. The United States Supreme Court has also ste