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Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction: The Future of 17-Year-Olds in Illinois' Justice System

NCJ Number
Stephanie Kollmann
Date Published
February 2013
74 pages
This report from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission examines the State's legislative efforts to have 17-year-old offenders' cases moved from adult criminal courts to juvenile court jurisdiction.
In January 2010, new laws passed by the Illinois State legislature mandated that all juvenile offenders aged 17 and younger charged with a misdemeanor would be adjudicated through the juvenile justice system; 17-year-olds charged with a felony offense would continue to be adjudicated through adult criminal court. Opponents of these changes raised concerns regarding public safety, overcrowded detention facilities, unmanageable fiscal costs, and staggering probation caseloads. This report from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission examines the effect that these changes to the law have had on the juvenile court system in Illinois and whether the predicted negative consequences occurred. Key findings from the review include the following: 1) raising the age at which juveniles are kept in the juvenile court system is consistent with current legal trends, is consistent with adolescent development and behavior, is an efficient use of juvenile court resources, improves public safety, and decreases long-term costs; 2) raising the age for misdemeanors did not overwhelm the juvenile justice system in the State, yet it did create procedural uncertainty that resulted in inconsistent outcomes; and 3) the proposal to raise the age for 17-year-olds charged with felonies will promote uniformity and clarity in the law, and will ensure that youth charged with a serious offense will still be tried as an adult. Following the review, the Commission developed a set of recommendations for improving Illinois' juvenile justice policy planning efforts. Tables, figures, and appendixes