Parkhurst weighs in on proposal to raise adolescent age in misdemeanor cases
Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst (R-Kankakee) considered the consequences of upping the age of an adolescent who commits a misdemeanor to 20 years old at a recent House Judiciary Criminal Committee hearing.
HB4581, sponsored by Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview), incrementally raises the age of a juvenile who is charged with a misdemeanor to 18, 19 and 20 years old so they can be tried in adolescent court, amending the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.
“As of 2017 in the Cook County Jail, 26 percent, or 1,184 admissions, were for misdemeanors in this particular age group,” Fine said, adding that according to studies, the particular age group is “very unique,” in that while they are no longer adolescents, their brains do not fully develop until they are 26 years old. “In the law, judges to have the discretion to decide to put someone in this age group in an adult court,” she said.
Speaking to the opponents, Parkhurst stressed concerns that the legislation they claim would create a “no man's land” for the particular age group as far as truly suffering consequences to the crime committed and that the age group could be housed with adolescents much younger then they are if they require residential treatment as part of their sentence.
“I was an assistant public defender for juveniles for 10 years, and I take this matter very seriously,” Parkhurst said. “I agree with the brain research and I believe that there is a continuum with the way that you learn, but I am struggling with it in the way you put it out there that there is a difference between a 14-year-old and a 20-year-old.”
She said the state needs to figure out if an adolescent is considered an adult at 18 or 21 before asking the opponents what are the concerns they have with the bill, specifically States Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Coordinator Matt Jones.
According to the attorney, sentences ought to be discretionary and heard in the adult court.
“I think that is why we have smart people hopefully called judges who have lots of discretion in how to deal with both populations in the juvenile and adult system and why they are very actively engaged in these specialty courts and to find the right calibration of community in impact,” Jones said.
Fine closed by addressing one of Parkhurst’s concerns saying while it is just as questionable to have an 18-year-old in a facility with a 14-year-old, it is the same argument as having an 18-year-old in an institution with a 30-year-old.
“We are just focusing on misdemeanors and we just want to be able to give kids who have made a mistake a second chance,” Fine said.
The committee passed HB4581 on an 8-4 vote and the measure was moved to the House floor.