Lawsuit: Hearings for youth are 'kangaroo courts'

October 24, 2012

By Rob Wildeboer

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A young Illinois man on parole was recently imprisoned for failing to attend school, even though his attorneys said he was attending school. That’s according to a class action lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

The lawsuit identifies the 17-year-old parolee only by his initials M.H. His attorneys say he suffered the same fate as many kids on parole after serving time in one of Illinois’ youth prisons. 

The attorneys said parole officers send kids back to prison for parole violations and there’s no mechanism for the kids to fight back. There’s no probable cause hearing, kids aren’t told that they can bring witnesses to testify, and they’re not told that they can have an attorney represent them.

Attorney Alexa Van Brunt said the parole revocation hearings are a sham, and in addition to being unconstitutional, they are often inaccurate because there’s no way to review the parole officers claims. The result, she said, is the costly imprisonment of kids who may not have actually violated their parole.

A study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission outlined problems such as these a year ago, but Van Brunt says there’s been little action because the commission's report had no legal or legislative force.

The Prisoner Review Board, which conducts the hearings and is the subject of the lawsuit, cited the litigation in declining comment.