Studies Highlight State Successes on Public Safety Measures: Legislation in Illinois and Connecticut to Take Effect on Jan. 1

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The Campaign for Youth Justice released three reports highlighting successful efforts in Illinois, Delaware, and Connecticut to reduce the prosecution of youth in adult court and ensure public safety at the same time.

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Connecticut’s new law will give young people a second chance and at the same time, increase public safety for communities throughout the state

Today, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) released three reports highlighting successful efforts in Illinois, Delaware, and Connecticut to reduce the prosecution of youth in adult court and ensure public safety at the same time. The reports were featured at the ‘’Keeping Juveniles in Juvenile Justice’’ session at the national “Models for Change” conference sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“Illinois, Delaware, and Connecticut have made enormous strides in promoting effective public safety approaches,” says CFYJ President and CEO Liz Ryan. “These efforts underscore the tremendous movement in the country to re-examine, reject and reverse approaches that research demonstrates have not been effective in reducing juvenile crime.”

In ‘‘The Illinois Success Story: Reducing Racial Disparity through Transfer Reform,’’ the report shows that Illinois’ law, Public Act 92-0665, that took effect on January 1, 2003, reduced the automatic prosecution of youth in adult court by two-thirds without having any detrimental effect on public safety. This law repealed a 20-year old policy of automatically transferring youth charged with drug offenses to adult court that was considered to be ‘’the most racially biased drug transfer law in the nation’’ according to national experts. Then State Senator Barack Obama commented on the floor debate on the measure “that too often sending [youth] to adult court and giving them adult sentences may simply be sending them to criminal finishing school…” Illinois lawmakers have also recently passed legislation, SB 2275, that will take effect on January 1, 2010, to allow 17-year olds charged with misdemeanor offenses to be tried in juvenile court, rather than in adult court.

“We commend the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers who championed these law changes in order to improve the lives of youth and protect public safety,” added Ryan.

Connecticut’s new law, Public Act 07-4, will take effect on January 1, 2010 to end the automatic prosecution of 16 year olds in adult court according to ‘’ The Connecticut Success Story: Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction.’’ The suicide of 17-year old David Burgos on July 17, 2005 underscored the need to re-examine Connecticut’s policies. The report credits the success of this change to the dedicated efforts of a bipartisan group of legislators as well as parents and family members, state agencies, law enforcement officials, judicial officers, and advocacy and grassroots organizations.

“Connecticut’s new law will give young people a second chance and at the same time, increase public safety for communities throughout the state,” says Abby Anderson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance. “State lawmakers, especially State Representative Toni Walker and State Senator Toni Harp, parents and families of incarcerated youth, and state officials are to be applauded for this achievement.”

Delaware repealed a law, House Bill 210, that had an unintended and harmful impact on youth, with youth being detained for long periods of time awaiting disposition in ‘’The Delaware Success Story: Reversing Automatic Transfer of Juveniles to the Adult System.’’

To view the reports, visit: http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org

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