Trial & sentencing of juveniles as adults increases harm & devalues youth potential for rehabilitation

When he was 15 years old, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commissioner Marshan Allen received a sentence of life-without-parole for an offense that occurred when he was 15 years old. After serving 24 years, 3 months, and 4 days, a court ruling allowed Allen to be released in December 2016.

Now four years out, Allen has been very active in justice policy and advocacy work, pushing for reform — especially since Black and Brown youth are disproportionately affected by the trial and sentencing of youth as adults in the Illinois juvenile justice system. For example, in a recent Commission report on this topic, we found that 53 percent of black teens were transferred to adult courts compared to 12 percent of white offenders.

Ultimately, data and research indicates that processing and punishing youth like adults harms young people and undermines public safety and community well-being. In fact, the very same developmental immaturity that can make a youth impulsive, vulnerable to peer pressure, and attracted to risk taking can also make them highly responsive to positive, rehabilitative supports and interventions.

>> Read the NBC Chicago story of Commissioner Marshan Allen to learn more about the impact of trying and sentencing youth as adults, as well as recent juvenile justice reforms in Illinois.

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