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Proposed Class Action Alleging Juvenile Offender Due Process Violations Is Filed in Illinois

Posted Oct 24, 2012 3:36 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Lawyers for Illinois juvenile offenders Wednesday filed a proposed class action against the governor and the state prisoner review board chairman, alleging that the juvenile court system restricts attorney access for youths picked up on parole violations.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the plaintiffs allege that the parolees are often told if they waive their right to a preliminary hearing, they will get home sooner. And if they get the hearing, the federal complaint (PDF) states, they generally do not have a chance to review the alleged violations or have access to legal counsel.

According to Northwestern University School of Law’s MacArthur Justice Center, which represents the youths, that amounts to due process violations.

One juvenile, described as M.H., is 17 and on parole for a drug conviction. He was jailed for not keeping in touch with a parole officer, according to the article, and was asked to sign a piece of paper with the promise he’d get out sooner. He’s described as being moderately cognitively impaired.

According to the lawsuit, M.H. has been held for six weeks, with no hearing or access to a lawyer.

“I would like a lawyer to help me tell my side of the story,” M.H. wrote in an affidavit attached to the lawsuit. “I don’t understand a lot about the parole process. I don’t understand the rules. I can’t speak up for myself in a room full of adults.”

Updated at 4:23 p.m. to include a link to the complaint.

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