Justice that Heals, Not Harms


Violence and Criminal Justice: What Needs Fixing? 

When: 10 am to noon Thursday, April 17
Where: Columbia College Chicago, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., 8th Floor
A joint-program for journalists and neighborhood groups of the Community Media Workshop and Strengthening Chicago’s Youth, an effort of Lurie Children’s Hospital.



By Steve Franklin
Community Media Workshop


The juvenile justice system is supposed to heal.

At least, that’s the theory.

But when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) investigtated Illinois’ juvenile prisons, it discovered very little healing and quite some harm suffered by youths.

After the ACLU filed a lawsuit in 2012, a panel of experts examined conditions at the prisons.

Its report came in September 2013, according to a recent report from The Associated Press. Some of what it found:

  • “Incarcerated teens mowing lawns during the school day, being improperly medicated and routinely subjected to more solitary confinement than necessary at the Kewanee, St. Charles, Warrenville, Chicago, Harrisburg and Pere Marquette (facilities.)
  • “Youths being kept at detention facilities after release dates because state officials could not find them outside housing.”
  • One of the experts wrote that the continued confiment of y0uths after rehabilition “was simply a violation of their human rights.”
  • The expert also wrote about an “overtly psychotic” youth kept in a room that smelled of excrement for 22-to-24-hours at a time, who was not on any medication, and “no one has a clear sense of what his diagnosis was.”

An expert who examined eduction in the prisons wrote:

“The education programs at the facilities operated by (Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice) IDJJ are grossly inadequate. Most students do not receive services to which they are entitled under federal and state laws and regulations.”

The state recently reached a court settement and set out the ways that it would deal with the problems. But what comes next?

Can a financially-troubled state afford the changes it has promised?

What’s the price if nothing happens — the price, that is, for youths and for their communities?

And what’s it like today in these six facilities? Can the news media see for itself?

This is some of the issues, we’ll be examining on April 17th at a forum on criminal justice and youth violence.

We’ll be talking about how the courts, detention, prison, and probation systems impact individuals and communities snared by violence.

A panel discussion by legal, mental health, and prison experts will be followed by interviews with a dozen community groups and organizations.
Speakers include:

  • Elizabeth Clarke, Juvenile Justice Initiative
  • Julie Biehl, Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern Law School
  • Elena Quintana, Adler School of Professional Psychology
  • Charles Perry, Westside Health Authority
  • Tony Lowery, Safer Foundation
  • Father David Kelly, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation

This a joint effort of the Community Media Workshop and Strengthening Chicago’s Youth, an effort of Lurie Children’s Hospital. http://www.scy-chicago.org/

So join us.

Questions? Suggestions? Digame – talk to me.

 Steve Franklin, Community Media Workshop, 312.369.6400, steve@chicagoistheworld.org

Here are links to the ACLU documents: