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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Says Youth Shouldn’t be Tried as Adults

Friday, December 12, 2014
Chicago Defender
by Andrea V. Watson,

CHICAGO–Cook Country Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today her ongoing commitment to end the automatic transfers of youth from juvenile to adult court in Illinois.

“This is a deeply unfair practice that disproportionately impacts youth of color,” she said.

On Friday morning in the Cook County Board room, Preckwinkle addressed the audience as she explained that putting a stop to this “unfair law” is at the top of her list. Her speech ties into President Barack Obama’s initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper.” The initiative encourages everyone to look closely at the inequality gaps between minority youth and their counterparts. Obama has asked everyone to help them reach their full potential.

Currently, Illinois law makes it alright for children between 15-17, and sometimes even 13, to be prosecuted as adults if they’re charged with crimes like first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and armed robbery with a firearm. This law was enacted by the state’s General Assembly in 1982. Illinois is on of 14 states that don’t require the youth to have an initial hearing in juvenile court before being transfered to a criminal court. Judges have no option to reverse the transfer either.

“Prior to the passage of this misguided law, judges decided whether a young person would answer certain serious charges as a child in need of intervention and rehabilitation or as an adult. That decision now rests solely with the prosecution, based on the charges brought,” Preckwinkle said.

Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz introduced a Bill in February 2014, which would end the automatice juvenile transfer to adult court. Representative Barbara Flynn Currie co-sponsored the Bill. Preckwinkle said she will continue advocating for the passage of the Bill in the General Assembly’s spring session.



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