May 25, 2017

New Website Explains Overrepresentation of Minority Youth in Chicago’s Juvenile Justice System

CHICAGO – A new website,, 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.

Read news release HERE. 

August 22, 2016


CHICAGO – Paula Wolff, Director of the Illinois Justice Project, issued the following statement on Monday about Gov. Rauner’s approval of a series of criminal justice reform bills:

"These bills are welcome steps in reform of the adult and juvenile criminal justice system in Illinois. The General Assembly and Governor have worked together to improve a system acutely in need of policy change.

"SB 2370 is especially important because it expands a requirement that an attorney be present to protect children questioned for the most serious crimes.  Most people are surprised to learn that teenagers can be interrogated for hours without a lawyer in the room.  The practice has led to false confessions and long periods of incarceration for youth who don’t understand their rights. 

"Other bills signed by the Governor will streamline the expungement process for some juveniles (HB 5017); will reduce the probation period for some youth (HB 6291); and will expand employment opportunities for men and women leaving state prisons (HB 5973). 

"These bills make it more likely those youth and adults will remain out of trouble and will make our neighborhoods safer.  We look forward to working with members of the General Assembly and Gov. Rauner to continue efforts to divert people away from prison and to needed services and to continue to reduce the size of the state’s prison population while keeping the public safe."

Illinois Starts to Redeem Its Reform-minded Juvenile Justice Past

An op-ed by Candice Jones, Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, and Paula Wolff, Director of the Illinois Justice Project, on the website of the Juvenile Justice Information Exhange.

There is something about being first that can cause people to swell with pride. In Illinois, we have bragging rights on the world’s first skyscraper, the first Ferris wheel, the first deep-dish pizza and the first African-American president of the United States.

We’re also home to the nation’s first juvenile court. Unlike Illinois’ other firsts, this fact seldom ignites passion or even impresses many people. But over the past decade, those of us in the reform camp have used it repeatedly to implore policymakers to make the state’s juvenile justice system return to its original intent — a place where children aren’t treated like adult offenders and where punishment takes a backseat to rehabilitation.

TO READ MORE, click here.

June 10, 2015


A guest column by ILJP Deputy Director, Esther Franco-Payne was featured by Reboot Illinois on their website today.  

Thanks to concerns about the expense of prison overcrowding in Illinois but also due to increased understanding of effective approaches to reduce recidivism and to keep juveniles away from prison, Illinois state government has been on a decade-long run of enacting “smart on crime” legislation.

It began with the 2004 passage of legislation to create Redeploy Illinois, a pilot program in a handful of counties agreeing to a 25 percent reduction in the number of teens sent to state prisons and, in exchange, receiving grants to pay for rehabilitation and social supports for those youth in their home communities. Since expanding to more than 30 additional counties, Redeploy Illinois has saved the state millions and kept more than 1,200 youth out of the prison system – a step that has given them a second chance at success in life.

In addition to saving the lives of many young children, and keeping their families intact, Redeploy Illinois has helped the state reduce the number of youth in prisons from more than 1,600 a decade ago to fewer than 700 today, saving money and permitting two juvenile prisons to be closed.

TO READ MORE, click here.

February 19, 2015

Commitment to Improvements in the Juvenile Justice System in Cook County


  1. Press Release, February 19, 2015:  Cook County Juvenile Justice System Leaders Pledge Support for Rehabilitation Over Incarceration
  2. Background Document, February 19, 2015:  Community Coalition and County Officials Unite to Further Improvements
    In Cook County Juvenile Justice System
  3. List of Supporters, February 19, 2015:  Commitment to Improvements in the Juvenile Justice System in Cook County

For additional information, contact Jim Bray, or at 217-494-5532.