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New Study Confirms Disparities in Juvenile Law.

The 1987 Illinois Juvenile Court Act, which requires that some young offenders be transferred to adult court, is now drawing scrutiny from county and state officials. The law targets teens as young as 15 years old who are caught selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or public housing development. In May 2000 The Chicago Reporter revealed racial disparities in the law's application. New data from the Cook County public defender's office have bolstered the Reporter's findings.

The law was initially aimed at violent offenders deemed dangerous to society, or whom the juvenile justice system could no longer help, according to a study by the public defender's Juvenile Transfer Advocacy Unit. The study found that less than one-fourth of the 393 teens transferred in Cook County between October 1999 and September 2000 had been charged with violent acts. The majority of the transferred juveniles had been arrested on drug charges, the study showed, and 60 percent had either never received services in juvenile court or had been convicted.

In "State Drug Law Hits City Teens, Minorities," the Reporter revealed that between 1995 and 1999, 99 percent of Cook County teens who were transferred to adult court were African American or Latino. Ninety-seven percent lived in Chicago.

The advocacy unit found a similar trend; less than one percent of the teens transferred for drug crimes were white.

Betsy Clarke, director of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative, a non-profit advocacy organization on juvenile justice issues, added that since the majority of Illinois' public housing developments are in Chicago, "it's really a Chicago problem."

Illinois State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Hyde Park Democrat, said she is aware of the disparities. On Feb. 14 she proposed House Bill 1028 in the Illinois General Assembly, which would eliminate the juvenile transfer provision.

The young people most affected by the law are black, Currie said, and have never been in trouble with the law. "They are not hardened criminals by any stretch of the imagination," she added.
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Title Annotation:questions over the use of adult court for juvenile offenders
Author:Lewis, Pamela A.
Publication:The Chicago Reporter
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Feb 1, 2001
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