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CCI backs juvenile justice reforms

scales of justiceThe Catholic Conference of Illinois is supporting several juvenile justice reform initiatives, including legislation calling for the elimination of mandatory life imprisonment without the parole.

House Bill 1348 and Senate Bill 1858 would eliminate mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for individuals who were younger than 18 when they committed the offense. The two pieces of legislation also allow current inmates to apply for re-sentencing if they were younger than 18 when they committed a crime.

The measure also allows the court to consider specific factors when sentencing juveniles, such as their age, level of maturity, history of childhood trauma, likelihood of rehabilitation and statements of remorse. 

House Bill 1348 passed the House Restorative Justice Committee on a 4-3 vote on March 7. Read what CCI wrote on the bill and submitted as written testimony to the committee.

CCI is also backing legislation initiated by the Juvenile Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reforming the juvenile justice system in Illinois. The reform measures include the following legislation: (Read JJI's fact sheets on the legislation.)

House Bill 2404 — Youth who are 17 years old are currently tried in juvenile court for misdemeanor offenses but in adult court for felony offenses. HB 2404 would try 17-year-olds in juvenile court for both misdemeanor and felony offenses — except those youth who are transferred to adult court.

House Bill 1253 — A report from the Juvenile justice Commission noted that youth serve lengthy terms of parole, and are often discharged only when they age out of the system when they reach 21. HB 1253 calls for juveniles to be released from parole at 21 or when they finish serving a parole term given to an adult who committed the same offense.

House Bill 2401 — Redeploy Illinois was created in 2004 to prevent juvenile offenders from committing crimes that would land them in the adult prison system. HB 2401 calls for adequate funding to offer community-based services in Cook County.

Senate Bill 2351 — Individuals younger than 18 are currently often questioned by police in homicide investigations without legal counsel. SB 2531 stipulates that any resulting statements should be used only in juvenile court, and not adult court.

Senate Bill 1915 — All juvenile felony arrests and many misdemeanor arrests are currently sent to the Illinois State Police for input into the LEADS state offender database, even if the cases never went to court. However, juveniles still have to go to court to expunge their arrest record. SB 1915 would abolish the requirement of inputting those arrests into the state's database.