Children and Family Justice Center

Our lawyers, law students and former law students have spent countless hours helping many people sentenced years ago as juveniles to a lifetime behind bars. The Chicago Tribune recently featured the case of Steven Hawthorne, whose effort to achieve freedom was led by Alison Flaum, CFJC Legal Director, and Shobha Mahadev, Project Director for the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children.  Read about their work HERE »


Left to right: Andrew Meerkins (JD '13), Kaitlyn Quigley (JD '13); Steven Hawthorne; Alison Flaum, Legal Director; and Carrie Hammer (JD '17).  Other students who worked on the Steven's case over the years are Julie Lee (JD '13), Emily McWilliams (JD '14), Brett Werenski (JD '14), Marquel Reddish (JD '15), Alex Caritis (JD '15), Margot Ettleson (JD '16).

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Photo courtesy of Doug Haight

Uzoamaka Emeka Nzelibe, a staff attorney with the CFJC, and her husband Jide Nzeilbe have roots in Nigeria and careers in international law, but it’s a mirrored path that led them both to Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.  Listen to their story as told on this Northwestern Now podcast HERE »

“Building a Safe Chicago” report: Attack root causes of violence with a comprehensive crime prevention plan

CFJC and more than four dozen community groups and criminal justice reform advocates have issued a report urging Chicago’s elected leaders to reject reactionary and unproven crime fighting policies and instead attack the root causes of violence with a comprehensive crime prevention plan.

Building a Safe Chicago argues against mandatory minimum prison sentencing schemes and in favor of a comprehensive plan that should include:

  • Expansion of community-based programs to improve social conditions that have led to increased demand for illegal weapon possession;

  • Reduction in illegal handgun availability by regulating gun shop owners;

  • Reduction in gun possession charges by identifying and addressing the causes of the repeat offenses;

  • Enactment of the reforms advocated by Mayor Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force; and

  • Economic development initiatives in high poverty neighborhoods.

“An intelligent and equitable public safety strategy will realign public spending priorities to channel resources into strengthening — not suppressing — citizens most at risk, while paying special attention to reducing opportunity gaps across all public services,” according to the report. “Doing so will create a smarter, healthier, more stable and productive Illinois – and a safer Chicago.”

PDF of Building a Safe Chicago

Summary of Building a Safe Chicago

News release

CFJC and CHA in Partnership to Help Youth Succeed

The Children and Family Justice Center and the Chicago Housing Authority have begun to work together to help youth involved in the juvenile justice system achieve successful transitions to adulthood.

Selected by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development to receive a Juvenile Re-entry Assistance Program (JRAP) grant, CFJC and the CHA will assist eligible youth with expunging, sealing, and/or correcting juvenile or adult records and will provide counseling about legal rights and obligations in searching for employment, reinstating revoked or suspended drivers’ licenses, obtaining readmission to school, and creating or modifying child support orders and other family law matters.

Julie Biehl, CFJC Director, stressed the importance of helping young people move on from youthful mistakes. “Even children who are arrested and not convicted have a juvenile record,” Biehl said. “Those records follow them into adulthood and can seriously undermine their efforts to build lives for themselves by limiting their opportunities for school, housing, and jobs.”

Read more about the JRAP grant HERE.

About the Children and Famly 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 University 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.

Providing access to justice for unrepresented youth is a core mission of the CFJC. Each year, CFJC faculty, staff and students represent young people on a wide range of matters, from delinquency to immigration and asylum to cases addressing harsh sentencing practices or the collateral consequences youth face after coming into contact with the law. Oftentimes, the CFJC gives its young clients access to a lawyer when they otherwise would not have one. More...

CFJC MacArthur Award

The Children and Family Justice Center is a recipient of a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Please read our story, check out the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's coverage, and take a look at a video about our team's hard work! To make a gift to CFJC, please visit the Support Us page.