Defensive gun use highlights holes in Chicago's juvenile justice system

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford

I wish I could call Chicago’s juvenile justice system a joke, but unfortunately there’s nothing funny about an institution that’s such an utter failure at rehabilitating young offenders or providing any consequences for their crimes.

Carjackings are becoming increasingly common across the city; up 8% over the past year and much higher compared to what they were before the 2020 crime wave hit in earnest. Most of these carjackings are unsolved, but when police do make an arrest, more than half of those put in cuffs are juveniles. What happens after that? As the website CWB Chicago documents, not much.

A 17-year-old who shot a retired Chicago police officer during a carjacking attempt this week is on juvenile probation for carjacking—probation that he has twice violated by possessing stolen motor vehicles, according to prosecutors.

Mareon Jones was ordered held without bail on Tuesday afternoon by Judge Maryam Ahmad.

The 59-year-old retired cop was sitting in his Audi SUV in front of his home in the 3800 block of West Grenshaw on Sunday afternoon when Jones and another gunman arrived in a car driven by a third person, according to prosecutor Danny Hanichak.

Jones and the other passenger allegedly got out and pointed two short rifles at the victim, Hanichak said. The second gunman demanded the man’s money, then started to return to their car after the victim told him he didn’t have any.

The getaway car’s driver, however, instructed Jones and the other gunman to take the victim’s car, and Jones demanded the Audi’s keys at gunpoint, according to Hanichak.

The retired officer moved behind the Audi, drew his weapon, and opened fire on Jones, hitting him at least once. Jones ran back to the getaway car while firing at the victim as the second gunman opened fire from the vehicle, Hanichak said.

The victim, shot once in his abdomen and three times in the arm, underwent surgery and is expected to recover.

According to CWB Chicago, Jones was arrested and charged in February of 2020 with aggravated vehicular hijacking and ultimately received a sentence of four years probation. Since then, he’s been arrested twice for felony possession of stolen vehicles, but neither of those arrests led to his probation being revoked. Instead, both charges were apparently dismissed after Jones copped to violating his probation in March of this year. Rather than sending him away, the juvenile courts simply extended his probation for another four years, allowing him to continue on with his alleged life of crime.. at least until he and his buddies made the poor decision of targeting a victim who was able and ready to fight back in self-defense.

I think this teenager is old enough to make better decisions, but it doesn’t help that Chicago’s juvenile justice system is so apathetic to probation violations. If the purpose of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation, and yet a juvenile offender who’s on probation keeps getting arrested for felony offenses, at what point does the system figure out that maybe the young offender needs more intensive supervision; the kind that’s supposed to be found in juvenile detention?

This isn’t an unusual case. In fact, according to a report by Chicago’s FOX 32 earlier this summer, teens and even pre-teens arrested for carjackings are generally back on the streets in short order.

“There’s only 20% of the cases where the individuals are being arrested,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. “So you don’t know who that other 80% is, in that 20% there’s a disproportionate number of juveniles involved in it.”

Sheriff Dart says he’s frustrated with seeing repeat juvenile offenders.

“If there is a carjacking, for example, and the juvenile is not going to be incarcerated while the case is being decided — definitely need to have home monitoring,” said Dart.

Home monitoring isn’t the answer either, thought it might be cheaper than keeping repeat offenders behind bars. Just a few weeks ago I ran across the case of Stephen Kelsey, a 24-year old convicted felon who’s now accused of committing a carjacking while on probation and electronic monitoring.

24-year old Steven Kelsey was convicted of his first felony as an adult back in 2015. As the website CWB Chicago reports, Kelsey was first charged with attempted murder before ultimately being convicted of illegal gun possession and aggravated discharge of a firearm.

Placed on parole, Kelsey was soon arrested again on charges of unlawfully possessing a weapon as a felon. Remarkably, he was sent back to prison and wasn’t released until June of last year, when he posted a $10,000 bond and was allowed to return home as long as he was subject to electronic monitoring.

For a little more than a year Kelsey managed to keep himself out of trouble, but according to prosecutors that all changed just a couple of weeks ago.

… According to CWB Chicago, besides Kelsey’s adult felony convictions he also has three juvenile convictions to his name; two counts of possessing stolen vehicles and one conviction for aggravated vehicular hijacking. It’s unclear whether any of those charges resulted in him spending time behind bars as a juvenile, but for now he’s been ordered back to jail after having his parole revoked.

The names may change but the story remains the same. It’s not like Chicago politicians are going to change up their script either, which means that the number of city residents applying for and receiving their concealed carry license is only going to grow. The city’s criminal justice system is failing to protect its citizens, which makes it even more important that they have access to their Second Amendment right to protect themselves with a firearm.