2015 Criminal and Juvenile Justice Legislation

Posted June 3, 2015

In the spring session, the Illinois General Assembly passed some significant reform legislation aimed at right-sizing the criminal justice system and expanding restorative justice opportunities to keep juveniles out of the system.  Here are some of the bills approved by the General Assembly.


Senate Bill 1560 (Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook) would no longer allow juvenile misdemeanants to be sent to state juvenile prisons.  Because low-level juvenile offenders sent to prisons often advance to more serious crimes after incarceration, public safety can be improved by keeping them out of prisons and delivering rehabilitation services in their local communities.  The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has estimated the law change would reduce commitments by about 110 youth each year. 

SB 1560 also would require county jail or detention center confinement of individuals on aftercare (parole) from DJJ and charged with new crimes.  On any give day, about 70 youth – many beyond juvenile age but not yet 21 – in DJJ prisons have been sent there because they have been charged with new crimes.  Rather than staying in the county where they are charged, counties have been able send those youth to state prisons due to parole violations.  When they must appear in local courts for hearings on the new crime, DJJ must transport them to and from the home county.  The change would help DJJ focus on those youth it is intended to serve and who have the best chance at rehabilitative programs and services, instead of those who are at high risk of being sentenced to the Department of Corrections (DOC).  Supported by DJJ and reform advocates, SB 1560 passed the Senate by a vote of 55 to 0 and the House by a vote of 79 to 35.


House Bill 3718 (Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, and Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago) would end the automatic transfer of many youth to adult prisons and would restore judicial review by a juvenile judge of youth charged with crimes that do not involve physical harm to a person, including armed robbery with a firearm, aggravated vehicular hijacking and UUW. Murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery with a firearm would remain automatic, but only for 16 and 17 year olds.  For youth ages 15 and younger, no charge would result in automatic transfer.  Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is the lead advocate and has estimated it would result in a 70 percent reduction in automatic transfers of juveniles to adult court in Cook County.  The automatic transfer reform responds to the Illinois Supreme Court’s expressed concern about the lack of judicial discretion in statutes requiring the automatic transfer of some juveniles to adult criminal court.  The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 48 to 6 and the House by a vote of 79 to 32.


House Bill 2471 (House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago) would eliminate mandatory life-without-parole sentences for youth under 18 at the time of the offense and would require judges to consider specific age-related factors in mitigation at the time of sentencing. It also would give judges a broader set of choices when sentencing children who are transferred to adult court. After lengthy negotiations, the bill passed the House by a vote of 66 to 45, and the Senate by a vote of 53 to 0.


House Bill 2567 (Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, and Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago) would help keep children under the age of 13 out of juvenile detention.  Before sending a child under the age of 13 to detention, local authorities would be required to contact a local provider in the Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services (CCBYS) network.  If the CCBYS provider were not able to enroll the child in a program to receive services, the child would be placed in detention.  The House approved HB 2567 by a vote of 82 to 33, and the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 54 to 0.



House Bill 3141 (Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, and Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon) would require DJJ to issue an annual report detailing expenditures and data about youth in state prisons.  It also would require quarterly reports to the governor and state legislators.  The House approved HB 3141 by a vote of 96 to 0, and it passed the Senate by a vote of 59 to 0.


House Bill 218 (Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin) would make possession of 15 grams of marijuana — about 30 joints — punishable by a fine of up to $125.  The reduction in incarceration would save the state about $30 million annually, according to DOC.  The House approved the bill by a vote of 62 to 53, and the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 37 to 19.


Senate Bill 100 (Sen. Kimberly LIghtford, D-Chicago, and Rep. William Davis, D-East Hazel Crest) would place limitations on expulsions, disciplinary removals to alternative schools and out-of-school suspensions of longer than three days and is intended to encourage other behavioral and disciplinary interventions in schools that allow children to continue receiving an education.  The Senate approved SB 100 by a vote of 73 to 41 and the House by a vote of 43 to 11.  


House Bill 3149 (Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, and Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan) would assist job-seeking men and women with criminal records.  Those who earn a vocational certification, GED, high school diploma or some other degree would be able to petition the court to seal the record of certain non-violent convictions prior to the statutorily required 4-year waiting period.  HB 3149 passed the House on a vote of 94 to 20 and the Senate by a vote of 36 to 18.


House Bill 3475 (Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, and Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Chicago) expands eligibility for Certificates of Good Conduct, which are issued to rehabilitated job seekers after a rehabilitation review of the record of a person who has committed certain offenses.  Eligibility for the program would expand to include people who have committed non-sex-related forcible felonies.  The House approved HB 3475 by a vote of 87 to 23, and the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 41 to 14.


House Bill 494 (Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago) would remove a variety of non-violent offenses from being absolute or long-term bars to employment at schools.  Former offenders who have served time for certain nonviolent crimes, including shoplifting and possession of over 30 grams of marijuana, would be able to apply and compete for jobs after a waiting period either post-conviction or post-parole, depending on the offense. The House approved HB 494 by a vote of 66 to 47, and the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 36 to 10.


Senate Bill 1304 (Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and Rep. Elgie R. Sims Jr., D-Chicago) would create guidelines for use of body cameras by police, expand training on use of force by police, ban chokeholds and require an independent investigation of officer-involved deaths. SB 1304 passed the House by a vote of 102 to 7 and the Senate by a vote of 45 to 5.


House Resolution 138 (Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago) urges Cook County to take advantage of a recent law change permitting a portion of the county, rather than the entire county, to take advantage of the Juvenile Redeploy Illinois program to divert youth from state prisons.  The House approved HR 138, which is not binding.