policy-makers with background briefings on topics such as adolescent development and alternative
policy options, and making use of media to inform the public about a range of juvenile justice
topics. The net result of these collective efforts was to create a magnifier effect that steadily
increased the visibility and volume of juvenile justice reform efforts in the state and ultimately led
to many of the changes described above.
B. Identify Points of Leverage
Any effort to improve outcomes for victims, communities and youthful offenders by
improving the fairness and functioning of the juvenile justice system is a complex task that requires
a comprehensive understanding of how the system is organized and operates and the roles played
by multiple stakeholders, including judges, lawyers, policy-makers, law enforcement, probation
and correction officers, service providers, families, and community members. To further
complicate matters, because every state’s justice system has its own unique structure and culture,
there is no cookie-cutter approach to developing strategies that will be successful across all
Against this backdrop, one of the first tasks of the Illinois Models for Change initiative was
to survey the state’s juvenile justice system for the purpose of identifying opportunities for reform
as well as potential threats to reform efforts. After conducting this “environmental scan,” it quickly
became apparent that a primary pathway to progress might lie through the legislative process.
Several Models for Change partners had a sophisticated understanding of how the legislature
works and an existing record of success in advancing a progressive justice agenda. In addition,
there were members of the General Assembly who were willing to champion reform legislation
even when the odds against passage seemed unfavorable. Finally, successive governors from both
parties either affirmatively supported juvenile justice reform or at least were not inclined to veto
bills that made it to their desks.
Against this backdrop, participants in the Illinois Models for Change initiative chose to
pursue a legislative strategy as part of the state’s overall juvenile justice improvement plan.
early decision to work for change through the legislative process led to many of the state’s most
consequential system improvements.
88 One advantage of this approach is that adoption of a single
piece of legislation can lead to immediate changes with far-reaching effects.
89 A corollary lesson,
85 See PATRICK GRIFFIN, MODELS FOR CHANGE 2009 UPDATE: CORE STATE PROGRESS, 6–9 (2009),
http://www.modelsforchange.net/publications/296 (highlighting the role of Models for Change in helping to bring
about fundamental improvements to the state’s juvenile justice system).
86 See Public Act 94-0696 (2005) (codified as amended at 20 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN 5/5-15 (West 2015)) (bill creating
Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice signed by Governor Blagojevch); Public Act 98-0061 (2013) (codified as
amended at 705 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/5-120 (West 2015)) (legislation raising the age of juvenile court
jurisdiction signed by Governor Quinn; Public Act 99-0258 (2016) (to be codified as amended in scattered sections
of 705 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/) (bill rolling back automatic transfer signed by Governor Rauner).
87 These benefits include the creation of a legal framework for how the juvenile justice system functions at every level
of government, while at the same time taking advantage of local experience in fashioning statewide policy. See
JUVENILE JUSTICE IN A DEVELOPMENTAL FRAMEWORK, MACARTHUR FOUNDATION 6 (2015),
http://modelsforchange.net/publications/787 (discussing the unique role state legislation plays in the juvenile justice
88 See supra notes 22–42 and accompanying text.
89 See, e.g., supra notes 36–37 and accompanying text (detailing the results of Illinois’ decision to return original
jurisdiction over drug offenses to juvenile court, including a sharp reduction in the number of youth of color subject
to trial and sentencing in adult court).