Posts tagged Application of Juvenile Services
Emerging Adult Justice in Illinois: Towards an Age-Appropriate Approach

As the home of the first juvenile court in America, Illinois is also among the leaders in emerging adult justice reform, a burgeoning field that focuses on system-involved youth at a distinct developmental stage, from ages 18 to 25. A new Justice Lab report, Emerging Adult Justice in Illinois: Towards an Age-Appropriate Approach, found that the current justice system—which automatically prosecutes and sentences all emerging adults in the adult criminal justice system—generates remarkably poor results in terms of youth outcomes, racial and socio-economic equity, and public safety.

Authored by Selen Siringil PerkerLael Chester, and Vincent Schiraldi, the report highlights that emerging adults are overrepresented in Illinois’ criminal justice system, primarily for nonviolent and minor offenses, and bear the brunt of the worst systemic racial disparities.  

  • Emerging adults comprised 10 percent of the general population in Illinois, yet accounted for 34 percent of total arrests and 28 percent of individuals sentenced to incarceration in Illinois state prisons in 2013.

  • Of those emerging adults admitted to state prisons in 2013, 73 percent were incarcerated for non-violent offenses.

  • Over a third of youth ages 18-21 admitted to the Cook County Jail in 2017—2,252 young people—were charged with misdemeanors or other petty offenses.

  • African American emerging adults are incarcerated at a rate 9.4 times greater than their white peers in Illinois. Illinois has one of the highest incarceration rates of African American emerging adults in the country, three times higher than New York and 2.5 times higher than California.

  • Nationally, 3 out of 4 emerging adults released from incarceration are rearrested within 3 years. These poor public safety outcomes are exacerbated by significant barriers to reentry, such as a growing prevalence of substance use disorders and homelessness among this age group.

As the Justice Lab report shows, Illinois policymakers and justice leaders have already begun to experiment with policies and practices that treat emerging adults in a developmentally appropriate manner. These include, for example, a new “Young Adult Restorative Justice Community Court” in North Lawndale and a legislative proposal, filed in the 2018 session of the Illinois legislature, to gradually raise the age of juvenile justice in misdemeanor cases up to age 21. The report concludes that such reform efforts present the state with an opportunity to help system-involved youth become productive members of society and to simultaneously increase public safety and reduce long-term costs to taxpayers.

"It is important to rely on cutting edge research when reforming the criminal justice system," Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx said. "That is why I am grateful for the Columbia University Justice Lab’s report on emerging adults in the criminal justice system. Our office is in review of this report and we look forward to collaborating with them and other stakeholders in the future to address the emerging adult population in Cook County."

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Youth Justice in Europe: Experience of Germany, the Netherlands, and Croatia in Providing Developmentally Appropriate Responses to Emerging Adults in the Criminal Justice System

There is a growing awareness, in the United States and Europe, that emerging adults – those ages 18–25 – are a developmentally distinct group worth special treatment at the hands of the justice system. Four US states have proposed raising the age of their juvenile courts’ jurisdiction beyond age 18 within the last year, while four out of five European countries have special laws affecting emerging adults. Three European nations – Croatia, Germany, and the Netherlands – allow youth over age 18 to be sanctioned in the same manner as younger youth in the juvenile justice system, including the possibility of being housed in juvenile facilities. In March 2018, the Columbia University Justice Lab sponsored an educational delegation of 20 elected and appointed officials, legal system stakeholders, service providers, and advocates to Germany to learn more about the German approach to emerging adults. In advance of that delegation, the authors in this article examined the law and practice regarding court-involved emerging adults in Croatia, Germany, and the Netherlands to glean potential lessons for US policy-makers considering a developmentally distinct approach to emerging adults in their justice systems.

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Blog Post Series: Reflections on how Europe handles emerging adults in trouble with the law

Emerging Adult Project at the Justice Lab organized an educational trip around Europe to consider different models of justice for emerging adults – young people between the ages of 18 to 25. The director of the Emerging Adult Project, Lael Chester, and the co-director of the Justice Lab, Vincent Schiraldi, visited Netherlands and Croatia in the first part of this trip, and are now in Germany with a Massachusetts delegation. This blog post series by Vincent Schiraldi shares insights and reflections from this trip as it happens.

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New Emerging Adult Justice Reform Bills in Illinois and Connecticut

Legislative sessions in 2018 across the country are already seeing an increased emphasis on emerging adult justice reform. On February 7, 2018, a new bill was filed in Illinois to gradually raise the age of juvenile justice in misdemeanor cases to include emerging adults up to age 21 by 2021. Meanwhile in Connecticut, the Governor filed two new bills to gradually include 18, 19 and 20-year-olds in the juvenile justice jurisdiction until 2021, and to expand the youthful offender status protections currently afforded to youth age 17 and under in adult courts to include 18, 19 and 20 year olds.


State Representative Laura Fine, a member of the Emerging Adult Justice Learning Community of the Columbia Justice Lab, has filed legislation HB 4581, to gradually include emerging adults charged with misdemeanor cases in the juvenile justice system (rather than adult criminal court). Meanwhile, both the Illinois House and Senate health committees approved proposals to raise the legal age of tobacco use to age 21. 

Synopsis of the bill as introduced:
- Provides that the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission in its annual submission of recommendation to the Governor and General Assembly shall include recommendations regarding the inclusion of emerging adults into a developmentally appropriate justice system, reducing recidivism, and preventing deeper criminal involvement.
- Provides in the Article concerning delinquent minors that on and after January 1, 2019, "delinquent minor" includes a minor who prior to his or her 19th birthday has committed a misdemeanor offense and has violated or attempted to violate, regardless of where the act occurred, a federal law or State law, or county or municipal ordinance.
- Provides that on and after January 1, 2021, "delinquent minor" includes a minor who prior to his or her 21st birthday has committed a misdemeanor offense and has violated or attempted to violate, regardless of where the act occurred, a federal law or State law or county or municipal ordinance. Provides that the changes made by the amendatory Act apply to violations or attempted violations committed on or after the effective of the amendatory Act.

Full text of the bill HB4581 can be found here.

Update: HB4581 passed the judiciary-criminal committee of the Illinois House of Representatives at its first hearing in March 2018. 


Governor Malloy’s Bill No. 5040, An Act Concerning Adjudication of Certain Young Adults in Juvenile Court, introduced in the February 2018 Legislative Session, expands the age of the juvenile justice system’s jurisdiction up to age 21 by July 2021. In particular, this proposal:

(1) Adjusts the age of the juvenile justice system’s jurisdiction through age 18 on July 1, 2019, through age 19 on July 1, 2020, and through age 20 on July 1, 2021, and differentiates this new population from “children” in statute by defining those aged 18 through 20 as “young adults”;

(2) Designates the Juvenile Justice Planning and Oversight Committee (JJPOC) as the stakeholder group responsible for gathering input, incorporating feedback and overseeing implementation of expanding the juvenile justice system’s jurisdiction;

(3) At the suggestion of prosecutors and law enforcement, includes a provision that makes it possible for 16 and 17 year olds charged with the most serious felonies to be transferred to the adult docket upon a showing of danger to the community. If such a transfer takes place, a judge would be allowed to depart from mandatory minimums for 16 and 17 year olds that would otherwise apply to adults.

The Governor referred to the report written by Justice Lab's Lael Chester and Vinny Schiraldi, Public Safety and Emerging Adults in Connecticut: Providing Effective and Developmentally Appropriate Responses for Youth Under Age 21, in his State-of-the-State address on February 7, 2018, when he announced his legislative proposal.

A second bill, HB5042 An Act Concerning Prosecution of Low-Risk Young Offenders in Adult Court, expands the youthful offender status protections currently afforded to individuals age 17 and under in adult court to individuals up to their 21st birthday. Some of these protections, among others, include a limited period of incarceration of no more than four years, having police and court records automatically erased (provided that the offender completes his or her sentence and does not reoffend) four years after sentencing as a youthful offender, and having the arrest records and other records remain confidential.

Highlighting these new emerging adult justice reform bills in his State-of-the-State address, the Governor Daniel Malloy stated:

“[S]ince 2010 Connecticut has twice raised the age for what constitutes a juvenile in our court system - not once, but twice. The result has been less crime, fewer victims, fewer prisoners, and reduced cost for taxpayers.[…] This year, it is time to take another measured, sensible step forward. We can ensure that young adults who have not fully matured are not branded for the rest of their lives for mistakes they made when they were young.”

Update: On March 22, the Joint Committee on Judiciary in Connecticut held a public hearing on HB5040 and HB5042. Read a new op-ed by Justice Lab’s Vincent Schiraldi and Lael Chester on why including emerging adults in CT’s juvenile justice system makes sense.

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Public Safety and Emerging Adults in Connecticut: Providing Effective and Developmentally Appropriate Responses for Youth Under Age 21