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Illinois law would change process for juvenile offenders

Saturday, June 13, 2015
State Journal-Register

This April 23, 2015 photo shows Andrew Lorek, 20, at Menard Correctional Center, in Chester, Ill. Lorek, whoís now 20, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a rival gang member in 2009 in Chicagoís Brighton Park neighborhood.This April 23, 2015 photo shows Andrew Lorek, 20, at Menard Correctional Center, in Chester, Ill. Lorek, whoís now 20, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a rival gang member in 2009 in Chicagoís Brighton Park neighborhood. Because he had turned 15 just two weeks before the shooting, the case automatically was transferred to adult court, where he received a 28-year prison sentence. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune)

CHICAGO A measure approved by the Illinois legislature and awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision would end automatic transfers to adult court for 15-year-olds and limit the transfer of 16- and 17-year-olds for charges of first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery with a firearm.

The legislation responds to the vastly different outcomes for those charged as adults, who typically receive long prison sentences, and those who remain in juvenile courts, who generally walk free at age 21. Juvenile court cases also typically aren't made public, allowing young offenders to reintegrate into society without a permanent criminal record once they complete their sentences.
Andrew Lorek, who's now 20, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a rival gang member in 2009 in Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood. Because he had turned 15 just two weeks before the shooting, the case automatically was transferred to adult court, where he received a 28-year prison sentence.
In a similar case that took place just a few months earlier, a 14-year-old boy who shot and killed another teenager was able to stay in juvenile court and will be released next year when he turns 21.
A provision of the new measure calls for data tracking by all counties, which experts hope will help address racial disparities in the juvenile offenders placed in adult court, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The Evanston-based nonprofit advocacy group Juvenile Justice Initiative has found that 99 percent of the 257 juvenile offenders who were automatically placed in adult court between 2010 and 2012 were not white.
The proposed law would at least cut in half the number of juvenile offenders in Cook County automatically sent to adult court for lesser crimes, according to a representative of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who lobbied for the state reform bill.
Many experts who argued decades ago for harsher treatment of juveniles at a time of a crime epidemic have since changed their stance. John DiIulio, a University of Pennsylvania professor who was credited as the architect of the teen "superpredator" theory, was among that group.
"Even in the '90s, there was no case for automatic transfer even for young offenders charged or convicted of violent or multiple violent crimes," DiIulio said in an email. "All the evidence since then indicates that automatic transfer policies have few if any positive consequences."
As for whether Rauner will sign the bill, spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said, "The governor will carefully consider any legislation that crosses his desk."

 



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