Illinois has changed the fundamental trajectory of the state’s juvenile justice system over
the last decade thanks in large measure to the MacArthur Foundation’s investment in juvenile
justice reform and to the commitment, hard work and perseverance of public and private partners.
Although much has been accomplished, there is still much work to be done before Illinois can be
said to have fulfilled the vision of the founders of the juvenile court. Fortunately, there are already
strong indications that Illinois is prepared to build on the knowledge, relationships and momentum
that has built up in the state over the last decade. Recently, for example, an expanded group of
public and private stakeholders has come together with a goal of ending juvenile courtroom
shackling and the use of solitary confinement, eliminating punitive juvenile sex offender registries,
developing more effective interventions with unique populations such as girls and LBGT youth,
providing greater confidentiality protections for youth who successfully leave the justice system,
and improving mechanisms for the collection and analysis of data. There is also a well-spring of
support in Illinois for expanding the use of evidence-based restorative justice practices across the
entire continuum of the juvenile justice system. Finally, Illinois has been at the forefront of a
national conversation that asks whether young people in the eighteen to twenty-four age range
should be treated more like juveniles than adults given the developmental research that
increasingly suggests that this age group has not yet achieved full maturity.
As states such as Illinois tackle these and other remaining challenges, their work will be
informed by the legacy of the Models for Change initiative. That legacy includes a clear statement
of principles, multiple toolkits and other resources, access to experts, and most of all, an example
of how individuals and organizations can work together to envision new and better ways of holding
youth accountable for their crimes without destroying their chances for responsible citizenship as
fully mature adults.
120 See, e.g., Vincent Schiraldi and Bruce Western, Time to Raise the Juvenile Age Limit, CHI. TRIBUNE (Oct. 6, 2015)
(advocating for new approaches to young adults in the criminal justice system based on developmental brain research);
Rolf Loeber, et al., Overview, Conclusions, and Key Recommendations, in Loeber & Farrington, supra note 5, at 350–
51 (citing European examples of jurisdictions that have separate courts or sentencing schemes for emerging adults).
See also LAURENCE STEINBERG, AGE OF OPPORTUNITY 215–16 (suggesting that the current line of demarcation
between adolescence and adulthood should be rethought in light of recent human development research).