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Contact Information

The Juvenile Justice Initiative is a statewide advocacy organization working to ensure justice for children and young adults in Illinois. We advocate to reduce reliance on incarceration, enhance fairness for all youth and develop a comprehensive continuum of community-based resources throughout the state. 

Primary Contact Name: Elizabeth Clarke
Position: President and Founder
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Phone: 847-864-1567
Twitter: @JJInitiative


Bill Number: HB 3718

Type of Reform

Transfer Reform – Required that youth must be 16 to be automatically transferred (15 before); and that 16- and 17-year-olds may only be transferred for a more serious group of crimes; required demographic reporting of transferred youth, and enumerated criteria for transfer consideration.

Year: 2015

Bill Number: HB 2404

Type of Reform

Raise the Age Reform - Returned 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to juvenile court.

Year: 2013

Bill Number: SB 3085 

Type of Reform

Study - The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission was tasked with studying the impact of, develop timelines for, and propose a funding structure to accommodate the expansion of the juvenile court's jurisdiction to youth age 17 charged with felonies. Final report required by December 2011. 

Year: 2010

Bill Number: SB 2275

Type of Reform

Transfer Reform - 17-year old misdemeanants no longer filed automatically into the adult system.

Year: 2009


When Juvenile Court is the Default Starting Place for Youth:  A Review of Outcomes Following 2015 Automatic Transfer Changes in Cook County 

In this report, the Juvenile Justice Initiative examines the impact of a 2015 change to automatic transfer practices in Cook County, Illinois. The Legislature changed the statute to require cases to begin in juvenile court for a number of the “automatic” transfer categories, including youth who were 15 years of age. This legislation gave oversite to juvenile judges and prosecutors before any youth case could be sent to adult court. Of 181 youth cases pending in adult courts that were returned to juvenile court, 165 of them remained in juvenile court. That means almost 90% of the cases that were going to be processed in adult court were ruled by prosecutors and juvenile judges to be appropriate for juvenile court. The findings of this report lead to a recommendation for California to end all “Automatic” Transfer provisions in favor of discretionary transfer.

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50 Years After Miranda: A Look at IL's Juvenile Justice System (2016)

On the 50th anniversary of the Miranda warnings decision, legal scholars say Illinois is slowly making improvements to how young people's rights are being protected by the juvenile justice system.

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Young Adults in Conflict with the Law: Opportunities and Diversion (2015)

While in most states (including Illinois) young people are treated as adults by the justice system once they turn 18, research in recent years suggests that people ages 18 – 24 are not yet fully mature adults. The young adult brain is still developing, and young adults are in transition from adolescence to adulthood. Further, the ongoing development of their brains means they have a high capacity for reform and rehabilitation. Young adults are, neurologically and developmentally, closer to adolescents than they are to adults. Prosecuting and sentencing young adults in the adult criminal justice system deprives them of their chance to become productive members of society, leads to high recidivism rates, and high jail and prison populations, and increased costs to society through subsequent incarceration and unemployment.

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Automatic Adult Prosecution of Children in Cook County, Illinois. 2010-2012 (April 2014)

This report from the Juvenile Justice Initiative looks at three years of data on 257 children under the age of 17, who were held in juvenile detention in Cook County but prosecuted and sentenced in adult court from 1/1/2010 – 12/31/2012.

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Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction: The Future of 17-year-olds in Illinois’ Justice System (2013)

This report was submitted by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission in fulfillment of its mandate to “study the impact of, develop timelines, and propose a funding structure to accommodate the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Illinois Juvenile Court to include youth age 17 under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court.

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Impact of Illinois’ Statutory Change Mandating the Least Restrictive Alternative Standard (2012)

This report analyzes the impact of H.B. 83, legislation which requires that judges must find that “Commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice is the least restrictive alternative based on evidence that efforts were made to locate less restrictive alternatives to secure confinement and the reasons why efforts were unsuccessful in locating a less restrictive alternative to secure confinement.”

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Disproportionate Incarceration of Juvenile Drug Offenders in One State: Geographic Disparity in the “war on juvenile drug offenders” in Chicago (2010)

The “War on Drugs” in the US has disproportionately impacted people of color in urban settings. This paper presents one example of this disproportionate impact, documenting the reliance on incarceration for juvenile drug offenders within the west side of the city of Chicago. Statistics on youth committed to juvenile prisons across the state of Illinois demonstrate the majority of juveniles incarcerated for drug offenses come from the city of Chicago, and zip code mapping of the Chicago area youth committed to juvenile prisons reveals the majority of juvenile drug commitments come from one area in the city on the west side. The paper further examines the disproportionate impact of incarceration on the youth of color in Illinois.

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