Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
Dec. 29, 2011
New laws include shifts in juvenile sentencing process
By Josh Weinhold
Law Bulletin staff writer
SPRINGFIELD — A new state law requires that Illinois judges sentencing minors to state juvenile prison ensure that incarceration is the least restrictive option and that efforts to find alternatives to secure confinement were unsuccessful.
One of about 200 new laws taking effect Sunday, Public Act 97-362 forces courts to review several aspects of a minor’s history prior to sending them to a Department of Juvenile Justice facility.
The act directs judges to consider the minor’s age, criminal background, educational background and physical, mental and emotional health during the sentencing process, while also evaluating any community-based services provided to the minor, if the services were successful and if juvenile justice department services will meet the minor’s needs.
Elizabeth E. Clarke, an attorney and president of the Evanston-based Juvenile Justice Initiative, said the law codifies a procedure already used by many judges throughout the state. Currently, courts are only required to review a presentence report, she said, but will now have a more thorough assessment on hand.
“It will help judges have another tool to have a little bit more information,” she said, “to make sure they find the least restrictive alternative.”
The law also requires courts to ensure reasonable efforts have been made to prevent removing a minor from home. Removal should only happen, the law says, when it is in the best interest of the minor, the minor’s family and the public.
Clarke said the law change will help juveniles, especially nonviolent offenders, receive community-based treatment. Incarceration in a juvenile facility often does not meet the individual needs of a minor, she said, and prevents effective rehabilitation.
“Youth are less likely to offend if kept in the community,” she said.
Sen. Annazette R. Collins, D-Chicago, introduced the legislation when she was a member of the House earlier this year. The law, which passed 73-25 in the House and 51-0 in the Senate, will hopefully lead judges to find the living situation that best fits each juvenile offender, she said.
Collins said minors committing nonviolent crimes should not get away with their offenses, but should not be sent to an institution either.
“If our kids are incarcerated, the likelihood of being successful adults is very slim,” she said. “Once you enter the penal system, it’s almost like you never get out.”
Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Woodstock, and partner at Franks, Gerkin & McKenna P.C., voted against the legislation. He said he fears the law allows for expungement of juvenile offenses and will prevent judges from fully considering past crimes during sentencing.
State’s attorneys and police chief groups expressed similar concerns, he said.
“I want to make sure the people who are trying to keep us safe have the tools to keep us safe,” Franks said. “I think this went too far.”
Other new laws taking effect Sunday include:
• Public Act 97-16 — Requires all passengers in a moving motor vehicle to wear a seat belt, including adults in rear seats.
• Public Act 97-154 — Known as Andrea’s Law, it creates a first-degree murder database for people convicted of that crime and released from prison. It also places them on the existing registries for sex offenders and murder and violent offenders against youth.
• Public Act 97-157 — Makes the offenses of creating or possessing moving images of child pornography a felony one class higher than still images of child pornography.
• Public Act 97-193 — Adds several varieties of synthetic cannabinoids, which produce an effect similar to marijuana, to the list of Schedule I controlled substances.
• Public Act 97-299 — Under the Open Parole Hearings Act, allows any friend of a victim or concerned citizen to make victim impact statements. It also declares victim impact statements to be public documents and allows the filing of impact statements and notice of sentencing hearings in cases of motor vehicle violations resulting in personal injury or death.
• Public Act 97-311 — Allows a person who directs a third party to commit crimes of stalking, aggravated stalking or cyberstalking to be charged with those offenses.
• Public Act 97-380 — Prevents local governments or county sheriffs from contracting with a private operator to run a correctional facility, a restriction that previously only applied to the state.
• Public Act 97-383 — Requires DNA testing, after a judge or grand jury determines probable cause exists, for arrests on charges of first-degree murder, home invasion, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual assault. The law also requires testing of any person required to register as a sex offender and any person ordered by the court to submit a DNA specimen.
• Public Act 97-457 — Requires authorities reopening a closed case to provide notice to the victim or the victim’s family, except when state’s attorneys decide doing so would unreasonably interfere with the investigation.
• Public Act 97-467 — Increases the offense of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm or permanent disability and disfigurement to a Class 1 felony when it involves torture or extreme physical pain.
• Public Act 97-523 — Prevents the Prisoner Review Board from releasing information about victims and their families who have filed parole objections. The law aims to protect victims from inmates or their associates who might seek out people challenging their parole.
• Public Act 97-522 — Allows the Prisoner Review Board to schedule a rehearing within five years, instead of three years, from the date of denial if they do not reasonably expect parole to be granted prior to the rehearing date.