IL Works to Take Youth into Account in Life Sentences
Friday, July 21, 2023
It's only been a few months since Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill ending life sentences without parole for people in Illinois who were under 21 when they were arrested. But groups that advocate for juvenile justice reform say the job isn't done.
Efforts to pass another bill making the change retroactive stalled in the Illinois Legislature - and in courtrooms, judges and juries are still often trapped by mandatory minimum sentences, even for young offenders.
Luis Klein, executive director of the Juvenile Justice Initiative in Illinois, said age should be a factor in sentencing - and there's research to back him up.
"Brain science does show that an 18-year-old has a lot more in common with a 16-year-old than with a 30-year-old," said Klein. "That leads to more compulsive behavior, less thinking of sort of long-term consequences."
A report out this summer by The Sentencing Project focuses on 'life without parole' sentencing of young people, under age 26. It finds in Illinois, 27% received this sentence in the years from 1995 to 2017.
Now, under the new law, anyone under age 21 sentenced to life without parole will be able to have their conviction reviewed after 40 years. The report recommends review after no more than 15 years.
The Sentencing Project report, called "Left to Die in Prison," says most life sentences without parole are for murder convictions - and mass shootings involving school classmates have become all too common.
Klein said steering young people away from violence is a community effort.
"This violence that we're talking about, especially in a city like Chicago, is concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods," said Klein. "So, what is it that these neighborhoods are lacking that others have that we need to be providing? What are the economic resources? What are the educational opportunities for older teenagers and young adults? What job opportunities do we need to be providing?"
The report analyzed data from 20 states. It recommends that life sentences without review should never be imposed on juveniles, and points out that the justice system metes out the harshest sentences on young Black men.
get more stories like this via email
Health and Wellness
The Florida House is expected to follow the Senate's lead by signing off on an initiative to pour millions into the state's health care industry…
Pro-Ukraine rallies are planned in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco as well as cities across the United States this weekend, marking the …
New York activists are voicing serious concerns about the state's new congressional maps. The state's top court ordered new voting-district maps to …
New York lawmakers are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to keep dredging the Hudson River. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., sent a …
A unique collaboration between Ford Motor Co. and 41 community and technical colleges across the country is helping students and the automotive …
A new survey reveals most Mainers support policies requiring medical providers to disclose their facility fees before they receive treatment…
People who receive emergency food services from New Mexico food banks and other charitable organizations were among those at a strategic summit Friday…
North Dakota voters are divided on climate change matters, according to new polling data. To get more community buy-in for climate solutions…