Issues & Solutions

In Illinois, four factors have converged to deprive children and young people in the adult criminal justice system of their liberty, their chance for rehabilitation, and their possibility of release.

  1. Illinois continues to transfer children to adult court, where most mandatory adult sentences apply to them; 
  2. Illinois has systematically removed discretion in sentencing from judges, creating mandatory sentencing schemes that harm youth in the adult system; 
  3. Between laws passed in the late 1970s and the mid-1990s, Illinois effectively eliminated the possibility of earned release for most people receiving long-term sentences, including those convicted as youth;
  4. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that Illinois’ prisons are at 151% capacity, the most overcrowded prison system in the nation, which shrinks the already small pool of available mental health, physical health, and rehabilitative services. 

Evidence of meaningful change can be seen most clearly in recent US Supreme Court rulings on youth in the adult system, of which there have been an unprecedented 5 reform-minded judgements in the past decade.  All say one thing clearly: kids are different.

But positive court decisions are just the beginning.  Organizations across the nation must now untangle decades of extreme policies and undo the damage of year after year of budget shortfalls.  In Illinois, Restore Justice works to make the courts’ will manifest in local policy and programming, with particular focus on four key areas:

Visit Restore Justice Illinois to join the fight for a fairer criminal justice system.
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