Children and Family Justice Center

NEWS: CFJC suggestions would strengthen CPD consent decree

In comments presented to U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. in the State of Illinois v. City of Chicago lawsuit, the Children and Family Justice Center has suggested strengthening the proposed consent decree related to the Chicago Police Department’s use of excessive force against minors

“As Chicago-based lawyers for children, we heartily endorse the United States Department of Justice’s conclusion that the Chicago Police Department has demonstrated a pattern or practice of unreasonable force that specifically includes the use of excessive force against minors,” Julie L. Biehl, CFJC Director stated in the letter. “We therefore request that you retain or strengthen each accountability measure included in the parties’ proposed consent decree and approve it as soon as practicable.”

CFJC noted its appreciation that the proposed consent decree includes “attention to school-based policing and the inclusion of Illinois’ new juvenile interrogation laws as enforceable provisions of the proposed consent decree. However, these provisions alone are not sufficiently protective of young people’s unique vulnerability to the police abuse and coercion identified in the Department of Justice report and the Illinois Attorney General’s complaint.”

CFJC recommendations include support for the revisions proposed by individual and community group plaintiffs in Campbell v. City of Chicago and for their ability to independently enforce provisions of the consent decree. CFJC also requests consideration be given to including or strengthening youth-specific protections related to use of force, interrogation, crisis intervention, and school-based policing, and CFJC calls for monitoring that pays particular attention to the way minors are affected by implementation of each provision of the consent decree.

Julie L. Biehl Named Assistant Dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic

biehlpodiumcroppedJulie L. Biehl, Director of the Children and Family Justice Center, has been named Assistant Dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic. In addition to her new duties, Biehl remains Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Director of CFJC.

In a message to staff, Kimberly A. Yuracko, Dean of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and Juliet Sorensen, Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, said: “Everyone who has been fortunate enough to work with Julie knows of her wisdom, bravery and commitment to her students and our community. We are deeply grateful to Julie for stepping into this leadership position, and we are very excited to work together this year to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our incredible Bluhm Legal Clinic.”

“I consider it a privilege to be able to work side-by-side with the many talented and dedicated women and men at the Bluhm Legal Clinic, and now I’ll have the honor of working more closely with the other terrific clinics and centers that make up the Bluhm Legal Clinic,” Biehl said.

Biehl has been Director of CFJC since 2009. Under her leadership, the CFJC team has won national recognition for its skilled advocacy for children in conflict with the law and its careful research and persuasive advocacy of policy reforms.

NEWS: Illinois girls are being sent to prison for less serious offenses and with less delinquency history than boys


The fourth installment of CFJC’s year-long series Community Safety & the Future of Illinois’ Youth Prisons draws upon discussions with youth and staff, as well as research and data, analyzing recently-increased admissions of girls to IDJJ and unreliable official data on incarcerated LGBTQ youth.

“Currently, girls are being incarcerated in Illinois for less serious offenses and with less delinquency history than boys, while little is known about the experience of LGBTQ youth in IDJJ," according to "Illinois' Incarcerated Girls and LGBTQ Youth.” The report notes the finding is "further proof of the devastating impact of cutting community programs, played out in the lives of some of the state’s most vulnerable young people."

Inside this issue:

  • The number of girls admitted to IDJJ increased by 81% between FY17 and FY18, despite an overall decline in IDJJ admissions during this period.
  • 80% of incarcerated girls were adjudicated for a Class 2 felony or lower offense.
  • Every single girl in IDJJ custody has at least two mental health diagnoses and most have experienced significant trauma.
  • Illinois’ community-based youth services, including mental health care, have suffered significant cuts and closures, which may be affecting girls’ prison admission rates.
  • Evidence suggests that LGBTQ youth are significantly overrepresented in IDJJ, which struggles to maintain a supportive environment despite significant improvements.

The series of reports is the result of a multi-year research endeavor by the Children and Family Justice Center.  The research included interviews with a wide variety of policymakers, a survey of over 150 stakeholders, the collection and analysis of data about the state’s justice system, and an extensive review of academic and practitioner research. The series will culminate in a detailed set of recommendations, consistent with calls from researchers and practitioners nationwide, for a five-year plan to end Illinois’ use of large, adult-modeled prisons for youth and to expand alternatives to incarceration. Find each month's installment on our Youth In Custody section. 

How CPD’s gang database damages the fabric of society

In recent testimony before the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee, Stephanie L. Kollmann, CFJC Policy Director, explained why the Chicago Police Department’s gang database is both over-inclusive and inaccurate — failings that make it damaging to innocent individuals and an unworkable crime-fighting tool. “The database contains tens of thousands of Chicagoans who have never been convicted of a crime; many have not even been arrested; many are erroneously included, and tens of thousands have not been actively involved in organized criminal activity for decades,” Kollmann told legislators.

About the Children and Family Justice Center

Founded in 1992, the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC) is a comprehensive children's law office and part of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. At the CFJC, attorneys and law students work together to promote justice for children, adolescents, and their families through direct legal representation, policy advocacy and law reform. More...