Children and Family
Justice Center
Northwestern Pritzker
School of Law
375 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-3069
312.503.8576 phone
312.503.8977 fax
cfjc@law.northwestern.edu

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Children and Family Justice Center

 


NPR’s “All Things Considered” turns to CFJC's Shobha L. Mahadev for an explanation of the felony murder charge in Arbery trial

Shobha L. MahadevFollowing the felony murder convictions of three men in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, NPR’s “All Things Considered” turned to CFJC’s Shobha L. Mahadev for an explanation of felony murder. 

Shobha, a clinical professor of law, said the felony murder charge is an exception to the idea that only the person intending to commit a murder should be held responsible. “(A felony murder) conviction arises from your conduct and your intent to commit another felony, and then that felony is connected to murder itself,” she said. “So felony murder is actually kind of a different way in which we hold people responsible for murder, even if they don't intend to commit murder at all or cause a death.”

Unlike the Arbery case, where all of the defendants were white men, prosecutors more often use the felony murder charge to secure a lengthy prison sentence for youth, women and Black defendants who have been present at a crime that resulted in a death but did not have an intent to murder.

Shobha said some states have modified felony murder statutes to narrow their scope and noted that even without the option of felony murder, prosecutors can secure (procure?) long prison sentences by charging other felonies at the root of the felony murder charge.

Earlier this year, Shoba and Steven Drizin, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, published a detailed look at the history and impact of felony murder in The Appeal.


What is life like inside the five Illinois prisons for youth?

The answer to that question is best answered by the young people living it 24/7. CFJC went inside the prisons to ask that question and many more. You’ll find some of the answers in our latest installment of CFJC’s series Community Safety & the Future of Illinois’ Youth PrisonsCommunity Safety & The Future of Illinois' Youth Prisons logo

Between July 2019 and July 2020, we hosted more than 30 convenings of youth behind the walls and additional convenings of discussions with staff and incarcerated adults who previously were held in youth prisons. Most were conducted in person, but videoconferencing was used for all conducted after the pandemic took hold in March.

“Overall, the youth reported feeling shamed, criminalized, and punished, but not prepared for reintegration into broader society,” according to the report.

The series of reports is the result of a multi-year research endeavor by the Children and Family Justice Center.  The research included interviews with a wide variety of policymakers, a survey of over 150 stakeholders, the collection and analysis of data about the state’s justice system, and an extensive review of academic and practitioner research. The series will culminate in a detailed set of recommendations, consistent with calls from researchers and practitioners nationwide, for a five-year plan to end Illinois’ use of large, adult-modeled prisons for youth and to expand alternatives to incarceration. Find each installment on our Youth In Custody section. 


Juvenile Justice During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In a recent Planet Lex podcast, CFJC Director Julie L. Biehl explained efforts to release juveniles from prison during the Covid-19 pandemic, and explained her vision for the future of juvenile justice.

 


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CFJC — along with formerly incarcerated youth, youth and families impacted by the juvenile legal system, and people who care about impact of the juvenile legal system — have launched the Final 5 Campaign.

The Final 5 Campaign asks the state to take the following steps:

CLOSE the five remaining Illinois youth prisons within the next two years, with the two largest facilities (located in St. Charles and Harrisburg) leading the way.

DEVELOP a continuum of services that does not rely primarily on placing youth into facilities. Congregate settings must have a maximum capacity of 10 youth and offer developmentally-appropriate levels of comfort, privacy, and self-determination. The youth’s family must be provided transportation to visit the youth weekly.

SPEND twice as much on community-directed prevention and re-entry resources than is allocated to the construction or rehabilitation of new facilities.

ENSURE that all IDJJ staff, contractors, and other adults interacting with youth on a professional level are trauma-informed and invested in the growth and rehabilitation of the youth in custody.

ACTIVELY INVOLVE formerly incarcerated youth, other impacted people and advocates, in the transformation of the juvenile prison system.

In brief, the Campaign is committed to ending youth incarceration, investing in communities and working with you to achieve our shared vision of a system that will help children in their home communities and provides equitable treatment of youth of color.  JOIN US.



About the Children and Family Justice Center

Founded in 1992, the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC) is a comprehensive children's law office and part of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. At the CFJC, attorneys and law students work together to promote justice for children, adolescents, and their families through direct legal representation, policy advocacy and law reform. More...


 

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