Raoul and Preckwinkle put youth justice in spotlight

By SAM RAPPAPORT
Staff Writer

State Sen. Kwame Raoul (13th) and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are setting their sights on juvenile justice reform.

Two bills sponsored by Raoul passed the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday, Aug. 4. House Bill 3718 and Senate Bill 1560 will limit the number of young people committed to Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities and adult prisons. Raoul worked closely with Preckwinkle’s office in constructing the legislation.

“I’m grateful to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her chief of staff, Kim Foxx, for working with me to eliminate the automatic transfer of minors to the adult court system,” Raoul said in a statement released Tuesday, Aug. 4. “For most juvenile offenders, especially those who have committed non-violent crimes, we see better outcomes and lower rates of recidivism when they are able to live in the community and attend school, rather than being detained in a facility far from home.”

In addition to eliminating all automatic transfers of minors charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts, House Bill 3718 allows judges to consider a greater range of mitigating factors when sentencing a person under 18. These factors include maturity level, presence of a developmental disability, home environment, history of childhood trauma, prior criminal record and potential for rehabilitation.

Raoul’s second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1560, ensures that juveniles will no longer be committed to DJJ facilities for misdemeanor offenses.

“It’s an expensive proposition to send juveniles to DJJ facilities for misdemeanors,” Raoul said over the phone. “It doesn’t make fiscal sense, or logical sense.”

The two laws will take effect in January 2016.

Preckwinkle rolled out her own justice reform initiative on Wednesday, Aug. 5, when she and Commissioner Chuy Garcia announced a $500,000 investment in restorative justice organizations.

“Restorative justice practices vary but all acknowledge the injury that a crime victim has experienced,” said Preckwinkle spokesperson Frank Shuftan. “The community benefits first when the victim is made whole. The community benefits again when the offender moves on with his or her life, equipped with new insight and understanding.”

The investment will be made available through general revenue funds and released through grants, which organizations will be eligible to apply for later this month.

“Through our Justice Advisory Council, we invest in locally based initiatives that emphasize restorative justice, recidivism reduction and violence prevention,” Preckwinkle said a press release on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

“I view the programs we support as key components in the network of services we are building to reach everyone who experiences violence, whether they are characterized as victims or offenders.”

Raoul applauded Preckwinkle’s work in criminal justice reform, saying, “Toni has been a bold voice forcing us to re-examine the way we approach criminal and juvenile justice.”

s.rappaport@hpherald.com