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Lawyers Making A Difference for Juvenile Justice Reform, Part III
The last in a series of columns recognizing Illinois lawyers' commitment to juvenile justice reform.
This is the third and final installment in my series of columns that shine a light on dedicated lawyers working to improve Illinois' juvenile justice system. As before, these lawyers come from various locations and professional settings.
Soledad A. McGrath is the post-graduate ChildLaw Policy Fellow at the Civitas ChildLaw Center at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she uses the knowledge and expertise she gained while working on reform efforts in Georgia's juvenile justice system on behalf of Illinois children. McGrath and her Loyola law students are focusing attention on the rights of juveniles to have arrest records expunged and exploring other states' approaches to determining juveniles' competency to stand trial.
In addition to drafting legislation, she works to build relationships and collaborate with and educate community organizations, state agencies, and private and nonprofit entities on reform efforts in juvenile law. She has also testified before the Illinois General Assembly in support of juvenile justice reform efforts.
Prior to joining Loyola, McGrath was the primary reporter for the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division's Juvenile Code Revision Project. In that role she drafted a model juvenile code for Georgia. That model served as the basis for SB 292, the Child Protection and Public Safety Act, which is currently working its way through the Georgia legislature.
She was also a member of the JUSTGeorgia Legislative Drafting Committee, which drafted SB 292. She has been a consultant to the JUSTGeorgia Coalition as the bill winds its way through the legislative committees.
McGrath, who earned her BA at Northwestern and her JD at Emory University, was an associate at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP (formerly known as Kilpatrick Stockton LLP), where she practiced in the labor and employment group. During her time with Kilpatrick Townsend, she also represented youth in truancy court proceedings through the Truancy Intervention Project Georgia, an organization that seeks to prevent school failure.
James Radcliffe was the presiding judge of the St. Clair County Juvenile Court from January 1996 until his retirement from the bench at the end of 2007. During the time of his leadership, St. Clair County became one of four pilot sites in 2005 for the new program Redeploy Illinois.
This initiative provides intense evaluation, intervention, and supervision to non-violent youthful offenders and their families in the community instead of incarcerating the youth. It also seeks to reintegrate the youth into the community upon release. The involvement of the offender's family is significant, because often the offender is the most functional member of the family.
Redeploy Illinois has been a resounding success. The year before it was launched, almost 90 youth were sent to DOC from St. Clair County. Within two years, that number was reduced to 11 and commitments have remained in that range or lower since.
The cost of Redeploy is a small fraction of the $85,000-per-juvenile annual cost of incarcerating youth in Illinois. The recidivism rate of juveniles successfully completing a Redeploy probationary period is less than 10 percent, a fraction of that for incarcerated youth.
Radcliffe remains involved in juvenile justice issues in St. Clair County as a member of the local Juvenile Justice Initiative Board and the Children's Justice Task Force.
Joe Vosicky serves on the board of the John Howard Association, where he focuses on juvenile justice and other prison reform.
His commitment to public policy and service began early. In high school he was part of the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Youth Jury, a peer jury program. That led to his being appointed a youth delegate to the Illinois Commission on Children while a senior in high school and during college. He was also on the four-year steering committee for the 1970 Illinois White House Conference on Children and Youth.
He served on Governor Ogilvie's task force of the Illinois Commission on Children to review the Age(s) of Majority in Illinois. In that capacity he helped lobby to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18.
In the late 1970s he was on the board of the Cook County Special Bail Project. Project members met at Cook County jail early on weekends to interview those arrested the night before and delivered information to their families and the presiding judge so those detained could get bail where appropriate.
Making us proud
I've been inspired and heartened over the course of my presidential year by the many lawyers who have done so much to make the juvenile justice system better. Often, their compensation has been intangible, not material. But their efforts should make all lawyers proud. The few we have been able to recognize in these columns represent many others who have done and continue to do so much on behalf of Illinois youth, families, and communities.