Juvenile court’s goal is rehabilitation over punishment

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 1:21 AM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - The arrest of an 11-year-old boy in a stolen car investigation is the latest in a string of crimes allegedly committed by young suspects across Peoria.

Police arrested the 11-year-old Tuesday morning for allegedly stealing a car near Indiana and Nebraska Avenues.

It’s a troubling trend, said Dr. Derrick Booth, Director of Social and Emotional Learning for Peoria Public Schools.

“We’re definitely seeing the types of offenses that our juveniles are getting involved with becoming more serious,” said Booth.

Juvenile crime in Peoria appears to be on the rise. Nearly 30 different charges have been filed against juveniles in the past three months.

Among the most common charges are obstructing police, possessing a stolen vehicle, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and not having a firearms owner identification (FOID) card.

“This is a societal problem that Peoria Public Schools is looking to address the best way they can for students that are enrolled in Peoria Public Schools,” Booth said.

The criminal process is very different for juveniles than adults. The goal is not necessarily to punish, but to transform the young offender.

“It’s important that we temper our ideas of retribution or punishment with that hope or desire that this child is never part of the justice system again at any point in their lives,” said local attorney Brendan Bukalski.

He said third parties, primarily parents, must play a significant role in the process.

“Those kids that had the toughest time with complying whatever sentence that they had were the ones whose parents did not treat it as seriously as they should have,” Bukalski said.

At PPS, the Justice Advocates’ system works to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system.

“Schools are a big part of the process, because they’re there to monitor the students,” said Bukalski.

“They’re the ones who have to exercise discretion if a resource officer is involved,” he added.

Dr. Booth from PPS said while it’s not a perfect system, it’s a step in the right direction to keep what he calls a “societal problem” under control.

“We’re definitely not in a position where we’re saving everyone, at all, but we’re making positive progress.”