Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation April 1 that allows young offenders – those under the age of 21 – the ability to petition the Illinois Prisoner Review Board for discretionary parole.
“This historic legislation will create a long-awaited and vital new parole system for youth facing long sentences,” said Pritzker. “We’re taking an important step here today, but we all know that real work remains to bring about reform that this state truly deserves.”
The law will become effective June 1, and all cases will be evaluated individually. Victims and witnesses will be able to testify before the board when an offender applies for parole, which the board will factor into its decision.
Only offenders who committed the crime before turning 21 will be eligible. Those who have been convicted of first-degree murder or aggravated criminal sexual assault aren’t eligible until 20 years have passed – and people convicted of predatory criminal assault of a child and those given life sentences are permanently ineligible.
The law is a nod to numerous scientific studies that show the human brain – particularly the part necessary for making rational decisions (the prefrontal cortex) – isn’t fully developed until about age 25. People under that age process information with the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center. That means teens and young adults simply aren’t capable of exercising rational, logical judgment in all situations, or of always understanding long-term consequences – even when they’re exceptionally intelligent.
What is Parole?
According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, parole is “Discretionary early release of an inmate sentenced to a correctional facility with an indeterminate sentence before serving the maximum time of their sentence under the supervision of a parole officer.”
What if You’re Under 21 and Accused of a Crime?
No matter how old you are, you have the right to be represented by an attorney – and for most people, it makes sense to get in touch with a lawyer right away. An attorney with experience in juvenile defense can help you get the best possible outcome.
Call us at 847-920-4540 for a free case review, whether you’re the one who’s been accused of a crime or you’re the parent of someone who’s been accused. We may be able to help you.