Preckwinkle: End Automatic Juvenile Transfers to Adult Court

Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle Friday called for a blanket end to the automatic transfer law that allows prosecution of minors charged with certain felony offenses in adult court, and the restoration of judicial discretion.

According to Preckwinkle, who has pounced on the criminal justice system in Cook Count since becoming president, the automatic transfer law “is a deeply unfair practice that disproportionately impacts youth of color.” Under the automatic transfer law, children as young as 13 can be prosecuted as adults if they are charged with certain crimes such as first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle/Web Image
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle/Web Image

This move marks Cook County’s participation in President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which strives to close the opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, according to Preckwinkle’s office.

“At the heart of the President’s message is the need to keep young black and brown boys and men in school and on track to complete high school and postsecondary education and training,” Preckwinkle said. “We have answered the President’s call to action. We are determined to end unfair laws that prevent young boys and men of color from reaching their educational and professional potential.”

Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz, a strong backer of HB 4538, which would eliminate all forms of transfer other than discretionary, also joined Preckwinkle.

Nekritz’s bill introduced a plan to let a juvenile court judge decide whether it is in the best public interest to try the minor in adult court.

“Automatic transfers represent a serious encroachment on judicial discretion,” Nekritz said. “I look forward to working with President Preckwinkle and my colleagues in the General Assembly to enact these overdue reforms in the next session.”

Illinois, along with 13 other states, does not require an initial hearing in juvenile court prior to automatic transfer of youth to criminal court, officials said. Illinois judges also cannot reverse the transfer based on background or circumstances of the crime.

Among other things, Preckwinkle has previously said she wanted to blow up juvenile detention and rewrite the entire, including adult, criminal justice system.

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