Illinois will implement new rules to help ensure the due-process rights of juveniles in a settlement of a 2012 lawsuit that alleged hundreds of children on parole are illegally detained each year, according to recent federal court filings.
The lawsuit accused Illinois of employing what amounts to "kangaroo courts" to revoke juveniles' parole, saying children accused of violations rarely have access to lawyers and are left at the mercy of a system they don't understand.
To decide whether to rescind a juvenile's parole, many states rely on judges and courts. In Illinois, the Prisoner Review Board decides.
Citing what was the latest available state data, the 2-year-old suit said around 1,500 children in their teens or even younger were on parole in Illinois; out of 1,132 revocation hearings in 2011, parole was withdrawn 735 times, it said.
The new rules include the automatic appointment of state-funded lawyers for children and prompt, full, written explanations of a detainee's rights.
The lead plaintiff attorney on Monday heralded the deal.
"Thankfully, Illinois officials have recognized that assembly-line justice is bad for youth, for communities and for public safety," said Alexa Van Brunt, of Northwestern University's Roderick MacArthur Justice Center. It and the Uptown People's Law Center filed the suit.
A statement from the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, one of the named defendants, highlighted the commitment to ensuring all juveniles have access to a lawyer at the state's expense.
"This is an important step forward in helping us protect the rights of our youth during the parole revocation hearing process," said the statement, released Monday by department spokeswoman Alka Nayyar.
An attorney for the Prisoner Review Board, another of the defendants, echoed that. In an emailed statement, Ken Tupy said the agreement is "an important step toward protecting juvenile rights."
State officials don't admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which still must receive final approval from U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood. The next hearing is set for July 31.