One Chicago-area juvenile court typically spends about 20 seconds per case, says the Chicago Tribune. It may be the nation’s busiest courtroom for children. More than 2,000 children accused of robbery, rape, drug abuse, and murder have pending cases before Judge Michael Stuttley in surburban Markham, easily twice the number of cases as at the four other suburban juvenile courts in Cook County combined.
Even Chicago’s busiest juvenile court judge hears half as many cases as those heard in Markham, as do the most crowded child courts in Los Angeles, the nation’s child crime capital. The overwhelming numbers damage the court’s ability to protect victims and intervene in young offenders’ lives before they become hardened career criminals, authorities said. “We’re bursting at the seams,” said Stuttley, who is calling for more courtrooms to deal with suburban child crime. Though up to 120 children a day come before Stuttley in a basement courtroom that is a little larger than a double garage, the judge encourages parents to turn in out-of-control kids if they’re committing crimes. “If that’s what it’s going to take to save these young folk from prison, that’s what we have to do,” Stuttley said. If the number of cases is daunting, the details of specific cases are appalling, even in the outrage-weary world of criminal justice.