State News
8:05 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Measure considered to keep teenagers out of adult courts

Illinois lawmakers are considering a change that would keep more teenagers out of adult court. The measure would send 17 year olds charged with nonviolent felonies into the juvenile court system. 

Since 2010, 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors have been sent to juvenile court, while those charged with felonies are sent to adult court. Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat from Chicago, says getting more 17 year olds in juvenile court has led to fewer of them being sent to prison.  Courts that focus on youths have more options to help troubled kids.  While kids sent to adult court are much more likely to commit crimes in the future.

"Thirty-nine states treat 17-year-olds as if they in fact are what they are -- juveniles -- and all the studies suggest that juveniles should be treated differently from adults because their brains and every other part of them operate differently as well," says Currie.

Those studies show teenage brains are still immature -- which makes them more impulsive and less able to weigh consequences. Supporters say Illinois is the only state that treats 17 year olds differently based on whether they're charged with misdemeanors or felonies. So far, the measure has had bipartisan support.