Illinois Supreme Court rules on what can land juvenile offenders in prison

Sep 30, 2013

The Illinois Supreme Court says a teenager was improperly locked up for underage consumption of alcohol. As IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, the case began with a 14-year-old drinking in Champaign County.

The girl known in court documents as Shelby R. was in a lot of trouble. Shortly after Christmas 2009, she was arrested for attacking family members and underage drinking. The assault charges were dropped, Shelby pleaded guilty to drinking, and was sentenced to probation. But when she later failed a drug test, a judge revoked her probation and sent her to juvenile prison instead.

When attorney Jacqueline Bullard argued Shelby's appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court earlier this year, she said her client got thrown into the "deep end" of Illinois' juvenile justice system.

"It is a prison. These are facilities that are surrounded by razor wire. These are children who sleep in cells, alongside some of the most violent juvenile offenders within this state."

Bullard argued this is against state law, since juveniles are only supposed to be locked up if an adult could be incarcerated for the same offense.

The Illinois Supreme Court agrees. Because adults cannot, by definition, be locked up for underage drinking, the court says juveniles can't either.