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This site was archived January 1, 2018 and is no longer updated.


Illinois, the birthplace of the juvenile court more than a century ago, was chosen as the second Models for Change state. It was selected for its strong juvenile justice leadership, potential for collaboration, record of community and civic engagement, ongoing reform efforts, and its 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.

Selected reform innovations

  • Advocated for changes to juvenile court jurisdiction resulting in legislation that changed the state’s upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors and felonies. Read the Models for Change innovation brief or read the IJJC report on Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction.
  • Promoted  “Redeploy Illinois” which 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. Read more here or read the Illinois Department of Human Services report on Redeploy Illinois.
  • Strengthened community-based alternatives in five  pilot sites around Illinois. Read about Ogle County, which created replicable models of local collaboration to produce meaningful alternatives to prosecution or confinement. Read about how projects in Cook, DuPage and Peoria counties responded to adolescent domestic battery.
  • Reduced juvenile justice referrals through restorative justice practices in schools by launching a pilot project to address fights and other incidents on campus using principles of balanced and restorative justice (BARJ). Read the innovation brief on restorative justice.

Legacy updates

  • Closed three youth prisons and reduced prison population by approximately two-thirds (412 youth as of August 2017). This reduction was in part achieved by requiring sentencing judges to use secure confinement as a last resort and in part by prohibiting a sentence of incarceration for a misdemeanor conviction.  
  • Eliminated transfer to adult court for 15-year olds and severely curtailed the offenses for which automatic transfer is required (limited to four violent crimes, including murder).
  • Raised the age of juvenile court original jurisdiction to 18, thereby allowing 17 year-olds to benefit from the juvenile court’s more rehabilitative focus and avoid an adult criminal conviction.
  • Prohibited indiscriminate shackling.
  • Adopted significant expungement and record sealing provisions.

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. 

Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.