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Headshot of Lia Raves

Lia Raves

  • Hosted by Illinois Prison Project
  • Sponsored by Discover Financial Services, Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform, Racial Justice
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Lia (she/her)’s Fellowship aims to combat excessive prison sentences and mass incarceration. Lia will provide direct representation to individuals seeking clemency who were automatically transferred to adult court as juveniles under Illinois’ automatic transfer laws.

Today, over 400 people incarcerated in Illinois state prisons were 12-16 years old when arrested. 92% of those individuals are Black or Latinx, and 66 would not be automatically transferred if they were arrested today. Automatic transfer laws statutorily require children to be tried as adults if they are charged with a specific offense. These laws eliminate the ability to make individualized and personalized assessments of the child and are contrary to evolving research that highlights the fundamental differences between children and adults. They undermine the very purpose of the juvenile justice system, which was created to address the cognitive and developmental differences between youth and adults. Many individuals who were automatically transferred as a child and subsequently convicted as an adult lack any legal mechanism for sentencing relief but for clemency. However, there is currently no right to legal assistance in clemency proceedings in Illinois.

Evolving research has led us to understand that children are fundamentally different from adults. Our criminal legal system has also evolved to recognize the role racism plays. However, automatic transfer laws, which disproportionately impact young racial minorities, do not reflect these evolving understandings. Automatic transfer laws—created during the “tough on crime” and “fear of super predators” era—were designed to impose more punitive sentencing conventions on young racial minorities and have been utilized in a racially discriminatory manner since their creation.

Fellowship Plans

Lia will provide direct representation in clemency proceedings to people who were automatically transferred to adult court under Illinois’ automatic transfer laws and remain incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections. She will train lawyers on evolving research on youth and Illinois’ automatic transfer laws. Lia will also educate the broader public on the harms of these laws, their racially discriminatory impact, and mass incarceration by highlighting the lived experiences of people who were automatically transferred to adult court as children.


Greenberg Traurig Sponsors Record 201st Equal Justice Works Fellow

The over-policing and over-prosecution of young people of color is fueling mass incarceration. Racial minorities are overrepresented in every stage of the criminal legal system—automatic transfers are no exception.

Lia Raves /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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