Seventeen-year-olds charged with felonies in Illinois are currently sent to the same criminal courts that deal with adults. A measure under consideration in Springfield would instead treat them as juveniles. The idea behind the change is that 17-year-old brains are still developing. Betsy Clarke is with the Juvenile Justice Initiative.
She says the latest brain science suggests teenagers are more impulsive than adults and less able to weigh the consequences of their actions. In Illinois, 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors already go to juvenile court. The change before lawmakers would bring 17-year-olds charged with non-violent felonies into the juvenile court system. That way, judges have more flexibility to help the offenders get their lives back on track. Kids who end up in adult court are much more likely to commit crimes in the future. Kids charged with more serious, violent crimes would still be sent to adult court.
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