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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Statement on the Overhaul of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice


August 7, 2020

CONTACT: Rachel Shapiro, 312.895.7308,



Governor Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Stratton recently outlined a transformation of the juvenile justice system that will shift the state away from a punitive focus to one that encourages rehabilitation and provides the supports youth with disabilities need to successfully re-integrate back into their communities post-incarceration.

”We applaud Governor Pritzker for acknowledging the harm that incarceration causes, particularly for students with disabilities, and look forward to working with the administration in its efforts to reform the juvenile justice system,” said Rachel Shapiro, Equip for Equality Supervising Attorney and head of the Special Education Rights Clinic’s Juvenile Justice Project. Ms. Shapiro, who started the project in 2006 and continues to lead its expansion, is involved in a class action lawsuit representing court-involved students with disabilities.

This new plan will help ensure that students with disabilities who come in contact with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are able to remain connected with their communities and families, which is critical for preparing them for life both post-incarceration and post-high school. The Juvenile Justice Project has seen the toll that traditional justice has taken on students’ mental health when they are placed in facilities hours from their families—many of which do not have the resources to be able to come visit them.

The Governor’s decision to close Illinois Youth Centers is a great first step, but we understand there is much more work to be done. We look forward to the opportunity to work with the Governor and DJJ to create a new system that helps youth overcome their past in order to better their future.

Last updated: August 11, 2020

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