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Author Topic: Study, Lawmakers Consider Raising State Felony Age To 18  (Read 15503 times)

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Offline Forevermah

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Study, Lawmakers Consider Raising State Felony Age To 18
« on: March 09, 2013, 06:34:29 AM »
Study, Lawmakers Consider Raising State Felony Age To 18

03/08/2013, 9:56 pm

Steve Stout, steves@mywebtimes.com, 815-431-4082

If he'd been just seven weeks younger, Steven Gallacher most likely never would have been tried, convicted of aggravated arson in adult criminal court and sentenced to 10 years in prison for his participation in torching the historic Westclox facilities in Peru on New Years Eve 2011.

Before the felony age law was changed in 2010, a much-debated legislative compromise led to the decision of the Illinois General Assembly to put 17-year-olds with misdemeanor charges in the juvenile court system and move anyone in that same age group facing felony charges into adult criminal court.

Before the change, anyone younger than 17 was adjudicated in juvenile courts, which is considered more rehabilitative and has less dangerous sentences than convictions in the adult system. Gallacher, of La Salle, was born Nov. 10, 1994. He turned 17 just weeks before he and a friend set a huge fire that burned for weeks and injured a La Salle firefighter in the initial battle.

Gallacher's 15-year-old accomplice, who spent two months in the county detention home while his case was pending, was given probation and community service. Gallacher spent 11 months awaiting trial in county jail before he was sentenced to a decade (of which he must serve at least 85 percent) in a state prison.

"The (2010) compromise was better than leaving all 17-year-olds in the adult system, and now that research demonstrates the (juvenile court) system can manage the addition of 17-year-olds charged with felonies, it's time to complete the reform," said George W. Timberlake, chairman of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and retired chief judge of the Second Judicial Circuit.

When lawmakers debated the compromise, many expressed concerns about the impact of moving all 17-year-old lawbreakers into the juvenile system. But those concerns have been proven unfounded, according to Timberlake and the IJJC.

In a researched study the commission recently issued, the 24-member advisory panel recommends the state immediately adopt legislation expanding the age of the state's juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds charged with felonies.

House Bill 2404 does just that. Recently introduced in Springfield, it seeks to change the definition of delinquent minor to include a person younger than 18 when he or she commits a felony.

Opposed to the bill as an administrator — but not philosophically — La Salle County Detention Home Director Pat Sweeney said he fears the felony age change adversely would add to an already overburdened juvenile center.

"I feel the raise in the age of jurisdiction for 17-year-old misdemeanor offenders definitely had a part in the increase in our average daily population from 11 in fiscal year 2011 to more than 14 (the home's maximum capacity) in fiscal year 2012," said Sweeney. "Needless to say, our facility was not able to detain all of the La Salle County juveniles (offenders) due to overcrowding, and several juveniles were detained outside of La Salle County at the significant costs of more than $85,000."

Sweeney explained, "Knowing this information leads me to feel that adding 17-year-old felony offenders to our (local) juvenile system may add to this overcrowding issue, and more La Salle County juveniles being detained outside of La Salle County."

The IJJC report notes the number of states that routinely treat 17-year-old suspects as adults is dwindling, since states are trending toward making 18 the default age of adult criminal responsibility.

The report said, "Only 11 other states use an age (younger than) 18 as the default age of adulthood for criminal charges. The age of majority for federal prosecutions, like many other federal programs, is also 18."

The Commission's study concluded "none of the predicted negative consequences on the juvenile court system have occurred" because of the inclusion of 17-year-old misdemeanants in the juvenile justice system. The findings include the following:

    Due to a sharp decline in juvenile crime, there currently are fewer juvenile arrests after including 17-year-old misdemeanants than when the General Assembly began debating the change in 2008.
    County juvenile detention centers and state juvenile incarceration facilities were not overrun, as some feared. Instead, one detention center and two state incarceration facilities have been closed, and excess capacity is still the statewide norm.
    Multiple federal juvenile policy briefs have now offered new insight into the potential for adolescent offenders to grow and change — and have warned of serious negative public safety consequences of sending minors through an adult criminal system.
    Instead of drawing a wise, safe or clear distinction between minor and serious offenses, the law splitting 17-year-olds between two court systems caused confusion, and jurisdictional questions still regularly arise when 17-year-olds are arrested.

A new federal law introduced another reason for placing all 17-year-olds in the juvenile system.

The Commission report warned the new federal Prison Rape Elimination Act requires all offenders younger than 18, even those in the criminal system, to be housed separately from adults in all lockups, jails, detention centers and prisons. Noncompliance can result in a 5 percent penalty on several federal formula funds and block grants, which support state and local law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois.

"The operational impact of raising the age for approximately 4,000 17-year-olds arrested for felony offenses will not crash the system," according to the Commission report. "In fact, most practitioners interviewed for this report believe the change will relieve some administrative burdens inherent in a bifurcated (age-separated) system in which some 17-year-olds are handled as adults and others are considered juveniles."

Under the commission's proposal, 17-year-olds would remain eligible for transfer to adult court for serious crimes, such as murder, sexual assault and gun crimes.

"Theoretically I have no problem with changing the age limit on felony," said La Salle County State's Attorney Brian Towne. "In fact, we are well aware of the (IJJC) study and the legislative debate. We have taken steps to beef up our juvenile division and this office is ready staff-wise and resource-wise to handle any increase in cases.

Towne said, "I think such a change would be beneficial to get these kids back on track, so they're not a (future) burden on the criminal justice system and our society."

While the debate over the felony age limit continues in Illinois, Gallacher, now 18, sits in Big Muddy Correctional Center outside Ina in Jefferson County. With credit for time served in La Salle County Jail, his earliest release date is spring 2020, when he will be 25.

The commission's full report can be found at ijjc.illinois.gov/rta.


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Offline veracity

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Re: Study, Lawmakers Consider Raising State Felony Age To 18
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2013, 09:08:11 AM »
Life would have been very different for many of us with 17 year olds wrongly charged as adults. If only we'd lived in a different state.

It's hard to understood our politician's logic in passing laws that allowed 17 year olds to be charged as adults when EVERYONE with a 17 year old will tell you they definitely are not adults.

 I hope they raise the age to 18 like Federal law and then work on the accountability laws. There are many 15 and 16 year olds sentenced to life without parole because they were held accountable for someone else's behavior.

Offline TimeStandsStill

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Re: Study, Lawmakers Consider Raising State Felony Age To 18
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2013, 09:14:38 PM »
House passes bill to ease juvenile court age limit

By Rafael Guerrero, Chicago Tribune reporter

7:24 p.m. CDT, April 16, 2013

— More 17-year-olds charged with a felony could wind up in juvenile court rather than face stiffer punishment in regular court under a bill the Illinois House passed Tuesday.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said the change would help minors access resources from the juvenile system that could help rehabilitate them.

"I think it's time for us to treat young people as young people because, as we know, they really are young, and their minds are not fully formed and their judgment is not always as mature as we would like it to be," said Currie, D-Chicago.

Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a former prosecutor, said gangs could take advantage of the proposed change by using younger recruits to do their dirty work.

"Now you'll have them breaking into cars, stealing from homes, selling drugs, and they will know that their punishment is that they're going to go to the juvenile detention home, and they may go to the youth facilities," said Reboletti, R-Elmhurst.

Under current law, people 17 or older are tried as adults for felonies. Under the bill, 17-year-old defendants automatically would be charged as juveniles for crimes considered lesser felonies, Currie said. They would be sent to a juvenile correctional center if convicted rather than prison. Those charged as juveniles typically have more choices besides incarceration, such as diversionary programs or counseling.

More serious crimes, including murder, aggravated battery, aggravated criminal sexual assault and armed robbery, still would be subject to automatic transfer to the regular court system.

The proposal also is aimed at easing the state's overcrowded prison system by sending fewer people to adult prisons. If the legislation "works the way it should," Currie said, the prison population could go down.

Republican Rep. Jim Sacia of Pecatonica said the bill is necessary because different regions of the state require separate approaches. "Not all of Illinois is dealing with significant gang problems," Sacia said.

The split between Reboletti and Sacia on changing the rule for juvenile offenders represented an issue besides gun control in which legislators are divided along regional lines rather than party affiliation.

The measure passed 89-26 and now goes to the Senate.


Offline sonshine

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Re: Study, Lawmakers Consider Raising State Felony Age To 18
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2015, 10:33:00 PM »
Well this is an old post but it caught my eye....I'm still trying g to figure out how my son that had just turned 17 got 6 years for burglary....no one was home and he wasn't even the one who took anything the other kid did...I don't understand...they said it was bc my son wouldn't talk and tell so he was gonna be punished...my son has never had a record of anything...I just don't understand...