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Working to Bring Juvenile Justice Reform to Illinois

Legislation to reform Illinois' juvenile justice system has been seen as a way to cut costs by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. (
Legislation to reform Illinois' juvenile justice system has been seen as a way to cut costs by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. (
September 27, 2017

CHICAGO - Those who fight for the rights of Illinois' young people are being honored at an event next week. The Juvenile Justice Initiative will hold a celebration Oct. 5 to highlight progress in the state and those who have helped accomplish it.

Attorney Mark Hassakis, a member of the initiative, said a young person's brain hasn't fully developed, even by age 18, so he or she shouldn't be judged in court the same way as adults.

Many in the legal system are starting to recognize that, he said, and laws are being passed to help keep kids out of jails and prisons and in alternative programs instead. Illinois' financial problems have ended up being positive for juvenile-justice reform, he said.

"A lot of the bills that were introduced and a lot of legislation that has passed in the last five years is neutral, cost-wise, and it actually can be saving, sometimes, to the state," he said. "It's been a really good time for many people to sponsor and push through legislation that's very beneficial to everybody."

Those being honored at the reception include Illinois Supreme Court Justices Anne Burke, Rita Garman and Mary Jane Theis, along with Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, founder of Enlace Chicago, and Pastor Ron Taylor of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations.

Mike Rodriguez, a 22nd Ward Chicago committeeman and also a member of the initiative, said it's important that Illinois state leaders stand up for young people, who aren't often able to make their own voices heard.

"Thousands of kids are arrested every year, and there's really no conviction or anything of that nature, but the arrest stays on their record," he said. "So, we've led efforts to automatically expunge the record of young people."

The Oct. 5 reception is open to the public, at DLA Piper, 444 W. Lake St., Suite 900, in Chicago. More information is online at

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL