Approximately 2,000 children are arrested every day in the United States, and State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) wants to make sure Illinois youth who find themselves in this situation are properly represented.
“One of the flaws of our criminal justice system is how it takes Black and Brown youth for prey. When minors are not represented properly, they are liable to be coerced and be taken into the system regardless of their innocence,” Van Pelt said. “For minority youth, one encounter with the system is enough to impact the trajectory of their life for the worst.”
Van Pelt introduced a measure – Senate Bill 1825 – that would require a minor who was under 18 at the time of an offense to be represented by counsel throughout the entire custodial interrogation. Further, the measure would ensure that a statement made by a minor during a custodial interrogation without counsel would be inadmissible in juvenile or adult court proceedings.
According to the Juvenile Justice Initiative, minors ages 13 – 17 face more complex legal decisions than adults, as the decisions may affect their future education and employment. Additionally, many minors are less capable of understanding legal rights, therefore assistance of counsel is necessary to help them understand the implications of statements made during custodial interrogations.
“As we find ways to repair the damage of our criminal justice system, it is imperative to analyze the causes of mass incarceration,” Van Pelt said. “Once we take a look at the reasons behind why so many young people are locked up, we may find that many arrests and convictions could have been avoided.”
Minority youth are more likely to be detained and committed than non-Hispanic whites, as African American youth have the highest rates of involvement compared to other racial groups.