The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Adolfo Davis, who was 16 when sentenced to mandatory life without parole for murder, will be eligible for new sentencing in a ruling that cracks open the door for scores of other inmates convicted while young to potentially live outside of prison as free.
With the Adolfo Davis sentence appeal set to be decided at any time, the fate of the others serving juvenile life without parole sentences in Illinois will fall into the hands of the precedent set by the case.
CHICAGO — National mental health organizations and experts are calling for reforming mental health services for incarcerated youth after recent reports revealed startlingly high numbers of mental health disorder in the population. Up to 70 percent of youths who come in contact with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder, according to a Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change white paper published Thursday. On average, up to 600,000 youths are in detention centers and 70,000 youths are in correctional facilities every day. Many of those youths are in detention for committing minor, non-violent offenses, according to the white paper. But once inside detention and facilities, youth do not receive proper treatment for mental health disorders.
CHICAGO — In 2007, Northwestern University Law School’s Children and Family Justice Center and the National Juvenile Defender Center collaborated to identify key issues in Illinois with juvenile access to counsel and representation in proceedings. Seven years later, it is still unclear whether the state has found solutions to any of those problems. Rather, Illinois has found itself riddled with additional challenges as its juvenile prisons came under fire for numerous reports of sexual assault.
“I think it’s hard to bring [this study] up to date because I don’t know that anyone’s followed up,” said Julie Biehl, director at the Children and Family Justice Center. The report’s major findings included untimely appointment of counsel and pressure for children to plea guilty without complete understanding of the consequences. Many of the issues correlated with the volume of cases despite inadequate number of public defenders available for them. “Public defender offices are always underresourced,” said Anne Helms, pro bono counsel with law firm DLA Piper.
CHICAGO — Childhood aggression may have more to do with a child’s genes than his or her surroundings, a new study has found. But environment and parenting remain key factors in the upbringing of young children, according to child development experts. Montreal researchers claim that genetic factors may contribute more to a small child’s tendency to be physically aggressive than environmental factors. To arrive at the root causes of physical aggression in young children, researchers at the University of Montreal conducted a study and posted new findings that could help clear up the perennial nature-versus-nurture debate. Their findings: that the genetic makeup has more impact than does surrounding environment on whether a child likely will act out aggressively toward other children, adults or possessions.
The White House sent a message to schools across the country Wednesday to abandon severe discipline policies shown to criminalize students for infringements that could be handled without law enforcement.
In this two-part package, The Chicago Bureau takes a look at the newly reintroduced legislation, analyzing both its prospects for Congressional passage this time around and the concerns raised by some juvenile justice experts, who say that the violence prevention and intervention strategies favored by the Youth PROMISE Act will be of limited effectiveness.