In a commentary published in The Daily Herald, Paula Wolff, Director of the Illinois Justice Project, and Victor Dickson, President of the Safer Foundation, explain the benefits of key adult and juvenile justice reform measures recently enacted in Illinois. Reforms give ex-prisoners a second chance
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New landmark reform law will give youth a chance to erase past mistakes and protect public safety
Landmark juvenile justice reform legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner will clear roadblocks to success for tens of thousands of Illinoisans whose youthful mistakes have restricted access to education, jobs, and housing.
House Bill 3817 strengthens confidentiality protections against the sharing of juvenile records and expands the number of juvenile records eligible for automatic expungement. The new system of erasing past mistakes and protecting public safety is similar to an American Bar Association model statute and implements most of the recommendations of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s 2016 report “Burdened for Life: The Myth of Juvenile Record Confidentiality and Expungement in Illinois.”
“As one of the first juvenile justice systems in America, the Illinois system was built on the principle that mistakes made by children should not brand them for life,” said Paula Wolff, Director of the Illinois Justice Project. “However, confidentiality protections eroded over time, and a complicated and expensive expungement system has made record clearing uncommon, rather than the norm.”
New Website Explains Overrepresentation of Minority Youth in Chicago’s Juvenile Justice System
Open Source Data Can Be Downloaded for Deep Dive
A new website, JusticeDivided.com, will increase public awareness of the overrepresentation of minority Chicago youth in the juvenile justice system and provide open source data for research by community members and journalists, eventually leading to changes in practices and policies.
The new website will call attention to the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system and provide factual and easy-to-access data from verified public data sources.
“The site is targeted to inform youth, provide them with tools to become engaged in policy reform efforts and provide resources to help them overcome the collateral consequences of having an arrest record,” said Era Laudermilk, Deputy Director of the Illinois Justice Project.
Some visitors will be surprised to learn that black youth make up only 42 percent of Chicago’s youth population but account for 79 percent of arrests and 87 percent of imprisonments.
“The website is intended to encourage a public discussion of inequity: for example, while black and white youth have the same rate of marijuana use, blacks are arrested far more often,” Laudermilk said. “The website also is a resource to spur discussion of how to develop and implement policies and practices to reduce disproportionate minority contact, as well as information to help kids in trouble stay out of trouble.”
“Building a Safe Chicago” report: Attack root causes of violence with a comprehensive crime prevention plan
The Illinois Justice Project and nearly 50 other community groups and criminal justice reform advocates have issued a report urging Chicago’s elected leaders to reject reactionary and unproven crime fighting policies and instead attack the root causes of violence with a comprehensive crime prevention plan.
“Building a Safe Chicago” argues against mandatory minimum prison sentencing schemes and in favor of a comprehensive plan that should include:
- Expansion of community-based programs to improve social conditions that have led to increased demand for illegal weapon possession;
- Reduction in illegal handgun availability by regulating gun shop owners;
- Reduction in gun possession charges by identifying and addressing the causes of the repeat offenses;
- Enactment of the reforms advocated by Mayor Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force; and
- Economic development initiatives in high poverty neighborhoods.