activities, including building local juvenile justice governance structures, supporting the use of
evidence-based programming and decision-making, promoting restorative justice practices,
improving data capacity and transparency, and educating stakeholders on the importance of
adolescent development in fashioning juvenile justice policy.26 Collectively, these Models for
Change efforts fundamentally altered the way in which Illinois responds to youthful offending.
B. Major Reforms
1. Right-sizing the Juvenile Justice System
i. Raising the Age
One of Illinois’ most significant achievements over the last decade was passage of a bill
that raised the age of juvenile court original jurisdiction from seventeen to eighteen. Although
Illinois was one of only a small number of states that treated all seventeen-year-olds as adults, the
pathway to raising the age turned out to be surprisingly difficult. Opponents included a small cross-
section of prosecutors, probation officers and judges who worried that adding seventeen- year-olds
to the juvenile system would create unmanageable caseloads, consume a disproportionate
proportion of already stretched resources, and potentially exert a negative influence on younger
youth in the system.27
In 2008, the Illinois General Assembly agreed to allow seventeen-year-olds charged with
misdemeanors to be returned to juvenile court.28 This approach made Illinois the only state in the
country to have a bifurcated system in which seventeen-year-olds charged with a misdemeanor
went to juvenile court while those charged with a felony were tried as adults.29 After the law was
changed, and at the urging of “raise the age” advocates, the Illinois legislature charged the Illinois
Juvenile Justice Commission, the state’s federally-mandated state advisory group, with studying
the impact of the new “raise the age” legislation.30 The Commission undertook a rigorous
exploration of the issue by compiling research, analyzing data, conducting practitioner interviews,
and tracking data on the potential effect of moving all seventeen year olds into the juvenile justice
system.31 The end result of these cumulative efforts was the adoption of legislation that returned
all seventeen year olds to the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court.32
ii. Limiting Automatic Transfer
One of the consequences of the “get tough” on juvenile crime movement in the late 1980s
and early 1990s was to increase the number of youth subject to transfer to the adult criminal justice
system.33 Illinois was one of the forerunners in the movement to expand the number and type of
26 See MODELS FOR CHANGE, supra note 18 (discussing a representative sample of Illinois Models for Change grantees
and their work).
27 STEPHANIE KOLLMANN, RAISING THE AGE OF JUVENILE COURT JURISDICTION: THE FUTURE OF 17-YEAR-OLDS IN
ILLINOIS’ JUSTICE SYSTEM 6 (Illinois Juvenile Just. Comm’n ed. 2013) (citing cost, increased probation caseloads and
detention overcrowding as major concerns among those who opposed raising the age of jurisdiction).
28 Public Act 95-1031(2010) (codified as amended at 705 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/5-120 (West 2015)).
29 KOLLMANN, supra note 27.
30 Public Act 96-1199 (2011) (codified as amended at 20 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 505/17A-9(a)(6)) (West 2015)).
31 See generally KOLLMANN, supra note 27 (detailing the process used to comply with the Commission’s legislative
32 Public Act 98-0061 (2013) (codified as amended at 705 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/5-120 (West 2015)).