On Tuesday, Illinois state senators passed two bills with potentially profound implications on the state’s juvenile justice system.
By a 40-10 vote, the Illinois Senate passed House Bill 2404, which would place young people in the state charged with felonies under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts as opposed to the adult system.
Currently, 17-year-olds in Illinois charged with felonies are automatically tried as adults. If the bill is signed into law, such youth would instead be tried, initially, in juvenile courts, where judges have greater ability to avoid handing out sentences that entail incarceration.
Under the legislation, however, 17-year-olds with serious offenses are still eligible for transfer to adult courts. Additionally, the bill does not apply retroactively, and judges would still have the discretion to transfer felony offenders as young as 13 to the state’s adult courtrooms.
The same day, senators approved HB 2401 by a 39-9 vote. The bill would authorize Cook County to establish a Redeploy Illinois program in certain parts of the county, such as in specified police districts.
Currently, state laws mandate that the Redeploy program -- an intervention which helps provide, among other services, mental health counseling and tutoring to non-violent juvenile offenders -- has to be implemented on a county-wide basis.
Counties that participate in the Redeploy program, in exchange for state aid, must agree to reduce their state youth prison commitments by at least 25 percent. If Gov. Pat Quinn signs HB 2401 into law, it would allow communities to adjust Redeploy programming to focus on smaller regions -- a method considered more effective by many reform advocates.
According to the Juvenile Justice Initiative, not only does the Redeploy program result in greater reductions in youth incarceration and recidivism rates, it also yields a high return on investment for Illinois.
“The annual appropriation for Redeploy Illinois is $2.4 million,” the organization states in a HB 2401 fact sheet. “The potential cost avoidance of averting 883 commitments to the Department of Juvenile Justice is $40 million, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services.”