Study: Minority Kids Hit Hardest By Illinois Law
By The Associated Press, with Additional Reporting from Illinois Public Radio
A state lawmaker opposes eliminating the automatic transfer of juveniles charged with serious crimes to adult court. Meanwhile, a group says Illinois' 32-year-old law requiring juveniles accused of the most serious crimes to be charged as adults may be discriminatory.
Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) says he's open to changes that would remedy problems pointed out in a study by the nonpartisan Juvenile Justice Initiative.
The study released Tuesday says automatic transfers of violent juvenile crimes to adult court fell heaviest on minorities in Cook County from 2010 through 2012. Half of those pleaded guilty to lesser crimes that wouldn't have needed to be in adult court.
The report looked at the cases of 257 people under 17 in Cook County. The study found that only one of those cases involved a non-minority defendant. Eighty-three percent were black and 16 percent were Hispanic.
"This is just such a huge system failure," said Elizabeth Clarke, who's with the Juvenile Justice Initiative.
Meanwhile, there’s a proposed state legislation to put young people charged as adults in front of juvenile judges so their cases can be evaluated earlier.
Reboletti says automatic transfer is necessary for a teenager charged with a serious offense like murder. If it was prosecuted in juvenile court he'd only have to stay incarcerated to age 21.
But the former prosecutor is open to different approaches.