Children and Family Justice Center

IN THE NEWS: “Like speeding, carrying a gun is inherently dangerous, but usually non-injurious, conduct. The best way to reduce it is to address the reasons it occurs.”

In a Chicago Sun-Times commentary, CFJC Policy Director Stephanie Kollmann called on city police leaders to stop blaming “lenient” laws and courts for violence. She wrote: “. . . the city would be wise to immediately fold up its long-running public safety shell game, in which the problem is always made to appear under one of the other two branches of government, the state Legislature or the courts. “

Kollmann noted that the change in mayoral administrations at Chicago’s City Hall is an extraordinary opportunity — and one voters support — to change the city’s approach to safety and equity, but it is change that “will require uncomfortable truths and setting aside old habits and old grudges.”

“In particular, the Chicago Police Department should stop characterizing weighty courtroom concerns like legal innocence, due process, the presumption of pretrial release, illegal search and seizure, public safety risks and proportionality as lenience,” Kollmann wrote. “For one thing, Cook County is already responsible for 58% of people committed to state prison for weapons possession (32% higher than its share of people committed for other offenses). For another, CPD has not made an arrest in 93% of Chicago’s shootings and murders in the first half of 2019; nothing courts do is more 'lenient' than that.”

Read the full commentary “Quit blaming Chicago’s gun violence on ‘lenient’ laws and judges”

CFJC NEWS: A Beacon of Hope for Asylum Seekers

uzoThe current issue of Northwestern Magazine shines a spotlight on CFJC’s Uzoamaka Emeka Nzelibe’s tireless work on behalf of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum — decisions that for many of those young people could mean the difference between life and death. “A Beacon of Hope for Asylum Seekers,” describes Uzo's own immigration story, the current immigration situation, and the incredible amount of work, dedication, and passion that Uzo has brought and continues to bring to her clients at the CFJC.

"In these times, especially, I am so grateful that the CJFC is able to provide unparalleled representation for those seeking justice in the immigration system through the tireless work of Uzo, our Immigration Law Fellow Amy Martin, our social work and administrative staff, and our exceptional students," said CFJC Director Julie  Biehl.

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


The fourth installment of CFJC’s 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 installment on our Youth In Custody section. 

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...