SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois lawmakers have greenlit a bill that would reform how kids being in tried court as adults are sentenced.
It would also protect young survivors of human trafficking from being tried as adults, according to WBBM.
“They deserve more compassion and more support, and shouldn’t be subjected to the same kinds of penalties,” said Madeleine Behr, policy director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
Illinois House Bill 3424 passed through the state Senate this week. It broadens the amount of facts that a judge can look at to decide if a minor should be prosecuted as an adult. These include if the minor was in the child welfare system, is a survivor of sexual violence or similar trauma, mental health, or outside pressure from family, community or peers.
“We’ve seen a lot of national headlines of child trafficking survivors who are sentenced to very steep sentences – including life in prison – for committing acts of self-defense against a buyer or a trafficker,” Behr said.
State Senator John Curran called the bill a “big step backwards.”
“If we wanted to do something on sexual exploitation, this could certainly be bifurcated,” Curran said. “But putting it all together, this bill is going to substantially impair prosecutors’ ability to combat this epidemic.”
Behr, however, disagrees.
“I think it’s important that we recognize that survivors have really nuanced experiences and identities,” she said.
Illinois would become the fourth state to adopt these kinds of protections if Governor JB Pritzker signs the bill into law.