Cook County, IL appellate court finds mandatory life sentence without parole unconstituional as applied to a youth who was 19 at the time of his crime.  Read the opinion!


The Midwest Juvenile Defender Center (MJDC) is one of  nine regional centers of the National Juvenile Defender Center. MJDC focuses on juvenile defense issues in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. MJDC’s goal is to provide juvenile defenders the opportunity to improve advocacy skills, build partnerships, exchange information, and affect positive change in the juvenile justice system.

Links to NJDC’s Midwestern State Profiles

Illlinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

Legislation and Litigation in the Midwest

Michigan and Wisconsin are the only two Midwestern states that treat 17 year olds as adults in the justice system.  You can read a report from Michigan on the impact of prosecuting kids as adults and see Wisconsin’s Raise the Age bill and resources and information on the attempts to raise the age there.

Pending Legislation

Illinois’s transfer law allows children under the age of 18 to be tried in adult criminal proceedings without a meaningful individual review.  HB 4538 would amend the Juvenile Court Act to restore individual review to determine whether a youth is tried in juvenile or adult court.   You can read a report about the issue here and an article about the issue here.

It is likely that Nebraska will soon pass LB 25 (extension of juvenile court jurisdiction to age 25 for juveniles who are currently in the juvenile justice system) and LB 212 (prohibition on use of indiscriminate use of restraints in the courtroom).  For more information, contact Dennis Marks.

Current Litigation

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is considering whether an error in failing to record a portion of the custodial interrogation of a juvenile requires exclusion of the statements that were recorded.  Here are the briefs, including an amicus brief from the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth.  Oral argument was held on September 23, 2014.

The Minnesota Supreme Court held last year in Chambers v. State that Miller is not retroactive.  That case, along with three others, is on appeal in the 8th Circuit.  See our news page for information about the Chambers case.

What’s New………………..

The final report of the South Dakota Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Work Group: SD’s governor and chief justice initiated an in-depth assessment of the state’s performance in juvenile justice.  In November 2014, the work group published its final report, which includes a number of recommended policy changes.

A new study about juvenile records: The report, Failed Policies, Forfeited Futures, shows that we limit opportunities for youth by failing to protect them from the harmful effects of their juvenile records.  In our Midwestern region, North Dakota does the best job of keeping records confidential and allowing records to be expunged.

A report out of the John Howard Association in Illinois: The report, In Their Own Words, chronicles six young serious offenders’ journeys through the Illinois criminal justice system from arrest to incarceration.  The report recommends specific steps policy makers can take to improve the justice system’s response to serious young offenders.

Washington State has banned the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles. On June 6, 2014, the Washington State Supreme Court amended its juvenile court rules to bar the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles in court. You can find the details on WJDC’s website.

South Carolina has also banned the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles. SC’s legislature passed this bill barring the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles in court.  Fewer and fewer states are indiscriminately shackling children.  In our region, only Illinois and South Dakota ban the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles.  You can find the details about SC’s new law on SJDC’s website. Check out our resources page for more general information on shackling.

Good News from Iowa!  On July 18, 2014, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in State v. Lyle that mandatory minimum criminal sentences violate the Iowa Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” when applied to crimes committed when the defendant was under the age of 18.  You can read the Des Moines Register’s editorial on the case.

A new study out of Michigan: Youth Behind Bars makes recommendations to reduce the number of young people exposed to the adult criminal justice system