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The birthplace of the juvenile court a century ago, Illinois was chosen as the second Models for Change state because of its strong juvenile justice leadership, its potential for collaboration, its community and civic engagement, its ongoing reform efforts, and its receptivity to and readiness for change at many points throughout the juvenile justice system. A series of reforms and encouraging developments—including the reorganization of the state’s juvenile correctional agency, a small but significant roll-back in its transfer laws, and the expansion of fiscal incentives to encourage local governments to treat and rehabilitate young offenders in their communities—created momentum that Illinois Models for Change worked to expand and sustain.

Illinois Models for Change efforts focused on keeping young people in the developmentally-appropriate jurisdictional boundaries of the juvenile court, expanding community-based alternatives to the confinement and formal processing of juveniles, and reducing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system.

Learn more about Illinois Models for Change

Select reform innovations

  • Advocating for changes to juvenile court jurisdiction.

    Capitalizing on the research of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission (IJJC) of the State Advisory Group, Models for Change grantees and partners successfully advocated for legislation that changes the state’s upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors and felonies, thereby joining 38 other states and the federal government in recognizing that the juvenile justice system is more effective than the adult criminal system in effectively intervening with young people in conflict with the law. Read the Models for Change innovation brief or read the IJJC report on Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction.

  • Promotion of “Redeploy Illinois.”

    An innovative state law to cut the commitment of youth to state facility by changing fiscal incentives to encourage communities to treat and rehabilitate their youth in community based settings was being promoted and expanded to Cook County by Models for Change grantees. Read more here or read the Illinois Department of Human Services report on Redeploy Illinois.

  • Strengthening community-based alternatives.

    Models for Change funding for five “community-based alternative” pilot sites around Illinois has helped strengthen local planning, assess community needs, and develop new automated information capacity to manage local response to delinquency. Read about Ogle County, which created replicable models of local collaboration to produce meaningful alternatives to prosecution or confinement and to improve resources for young people, families, communities and the juvenile justice professionals who serve them.  Read about how the Illinois Models for Change projects in Cook, DuPage and Peoria counties developed policy, practice, and programs to respond to adolescent domestic battery, which encompasses family crisis or violence that results in police contact and possible delinquency system involvement for a young person.

  • Reducing juvenile justice referrals and DMC through restorative justice practices in schools.

    In Peoria, Illinois, a large number of African American youth were entering detention for aggravated battery in one public high school. After learning more about the problem, juvenile justice and school officials launched a pilot project to address fights and other incidents on campus using principles of balanced and restorative justice (BARJ). Once implemented, the low-cost interventions resulted in a 35 percent reduction in school-based referrals to detention for all youth, and a 43 percent reduction for African American youth. This pilot project served as a springboard for broader implementation of BARJ programming as an alternative to formal processing – both in school and out in the community. Read the innovation brief.

  • And more.

    Read Measurable Progress: A Summary of Illinois Juvenile Justice Reforms for the full story of the innovative juvenile justice reform work in Illinois.  Also check out the update. 

Publications and tools


Illinois Models for Change reform work was coordinated by Loyola University of Chicago School of Law’s Civitas ChildLaw Center. To learn more about Models for Change work in Illinois, or how to support juvenile justice reform work in the state, contact program manager Lisa Jacobs at: or 312-915-7876.

Supported by

Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.