Federal report on Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System
Recently, the United States Department of Justice National Institute of Corrections published a report, “You’re An Adult Now. Youth in Adult Criminal Justice Systems,” which can be found at https://static.nicic.gov/Library/025555.pdf. When I was Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, I sat on the board of ReDeploy Illinois, the state’s policy team to help keep juvenile offenders in the community rather than the juvenile (and adult) correctional system.
The NIC report is significant in its findings. It states that nearly one-quarter of a million youth under age 18 are in the adult criminal justice system each year. Youth transferred into the adult corrections system subsequently are re-arrested at a higher rate than those who remain in the juvenile justice system and that transferring youth to adult corrections may run counter to correctional and rehabilitative goals.
Additionally, with respect to Cook County, the NIC study stated figures claiming that of the 3,300 youth aged 16-17 who were in the jurisdiction of the adult court over a four-year period, 887 of the youth received probation for the offenses of which they were convicted. Those youth were presumably sentenced to adult probation, where services were, again, presumably less tailored to their needs.
The report further suggested that fiscal incentives to improve community-based supervisions, such as those in Illinois, have improved public safety and reduced costs.
When the first Juvenile Court was started in Chicago, its purpose was to rehabilitate youth and invest in future productive citizens. The NIC report, although encouragingly touting the successes of ReDeploy Illinois, shows that we still need to invest in our future. If youth are receiving probation as adults, special services should be provided to help keep them from becoming recidivists. Additionally, when representing a young person, counsel should be aware of trends as well as alternatives as a zealous advocate for the client.