SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday signed legislation that would end automatic transfers to adult court for 15-year-olds and limit the transfer of 16 and 17-year-olds charged with first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault or aggravated battery with a firearm.
The legislation ensures juveniles have their cases heard before a juvenile court judge who can consider mitigating factors such as background, mental capacity and culpability before deciding whether the case should be transferred to adult court.
Rauner also signed legislation that will end the practice of committing offenders to Juvenile Justice Department facilities for misdemeanor offenses. The law also ensures no minor will be confined for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense. Also, no minor will be detained in a county jail for committing an act that wouldn’t be illegal if an adult engaged in it.
The laws will take effect in January.
Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul, who sponsored the legislation, applauded the Rauner’s decision to sign it.
“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,” Raoul said.
The legislation also calls for data tracking by all counties, which experts hope will help address racial disparities in the juvenile offenders placed in adult court.
The Evanston-based nonprofit advocacy group Juvenile Justice Initiative has found that 99 percent of the 257 juvenile offenders who were automatically placed in adult court between 2010 and 2012 were nonwhite.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who lobbied for the legislation, contends the law will cut in half the number of juvenile offenders in the county automatically sent to adult court for lesser crimes.
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