(PJStar.com) A national organization that advocates keeping youth younger than 18 out of the adult court system is applauding Illinois for recent legislative changes.
The Campaign for Youth Justice tracked state trends in juvenile justice from 2005 to 2010 for a new report.
Illinois is praised in the report as one of three states that no longer automatically filters 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors into the adult system. The change became effective Jan. 1, 2010. Connecticut and Mississippi also raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction for misdemeanors.
The campaign said the new policy allows teens accused of minor crimes to have access to mental health and drug treatment in the juvenile system that isn't available in what it calls the "punitive adult system."
"The success in Illinois is a terrific example of the importance of education in juvenile justice reform movements," the report said, noting that advocacy groups and reform organizations focused on educating lawmakers after initial efforts to pass the measure failed.
The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission is also studying what it would take for the juvenile justice system to accommodate 17-year-olds who are charged with felonies, the report said. A final study is due to the Illinois General Assembly on Dec. 31.
KHQA spoke with Jon Barnard, the Illinois State's Attorney for Adams County, about these new changes.
"Obviously, juvenile court has a different approach, a different philosophy, having to do with anonymity, having to do with focusing more on resources toward getting that kid's life turned around and behaviors turned around so that it doesn't haunt them for the rest of their lives," said Barnard.
Barnard says he's anticipating a change with juveniles charged with felonies as well. Whether or not that type of legislation would pass is uncertain.