In addition to the changes to the juvenile justice system that we discussed earlier this month, a handful of changes to Illinois' criminal code took effect on Jan. 1. It may take some time to see the effects of some of the changes, as they address more behind-the-scenes operations (for example, more and improved police training). Other changes, however, will have an immediate effect on how suspects are treated, how crimes are prosecuted and the penalties for certain crimes.
We are continuing our review of law changes that took effect on Jan. 1. Our focus is on the changes to the juvenile justice system. Illinois and other states have taken up President Barack Obama's call to change the focus of the entire criminal justice system from, for example, the harsh penalties of the War on Drugs to a system that takes individual circumstances into account and works toward rehabilitation.
A host of new laws took effect on Jan. 1 that will change the way the Illinois justice system works. From high-profile laws dealing with police body cameras to less newsworthy (but equally important) directives regarding training programs to improve how police interact with individuals with mental illness, these new laws cover a wide range of criminal justice matters. Critics, in fact, say that the General Assembly's work was unfocused, if not scattershot, at a time when real change is necessary.
We are continuing our discussion of grand juries, focusing, for the most part, on state and county grand juries. The rules for federal cases are different, most notably by virtue of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. If someone is accused of a federal felony (a capital or "otherwise infamous" crime), a grand jury must hand up an indictment before the case can proceed.