Children and Family Justice Center

Lawyering and Race in the 21st Century -- Tuesday, Feb. 20

"Public Policy and Community Engagement: Perspectives from the Obama White House" is the topic of our next presentation in the Lawyerng and Race in the 21st Century speaker series.  The event will begin at noon Tuesday, Feb. 20 at the Bluhm Legal Clinic - Rubloff, 8th floor. Lunch will be served.

Former members of the Obama Adminstration will be featured speakers and will include Roy L. Austin Jr., former Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs; Don Graves, former Deputy Assistant to President Obama and policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden; and Tonya Williams, Director of Legislative Affairs for Vice President Biden. 

NEWS: Community Safety & the Future of Illinois’ Youth Prisons

PUBLIC SAFETYThe Children and Family Justice Center has published the first installment of our year-long series, Community Safety & the Future of Illinois’ Youth Prisons. The series is a result of a multi-year research endeavor, which 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.

This inaugural issue, entitled “Restoring the State Legacy of Rehabilitation and Reform,” examines the changes made in the state’s youth prison system since the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) was created in 2006. We look at the successes and the remaining challenges for IDJJ. Future issues in the series will dive deeper into the juvenile justice system — the roles that race, youth development, economics, family, and community play in youth incarceration.

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.

Some of what you’ll learn from this first issue:

  • Emphasizing diversion from prison and rehabilitation inside prison has helped bring dramatic reductions to the number of youth in state prisons — a drop from about 1,500 youth on average in 2006 to about 425 today.
  • After IDJJ split from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), the abandonment of IDOC’s punitive practices has been a slow and difficult process for IDJJ.
  • Significant legislative, administrative, and litigation-driven changes have helped to support IDJJ’s mission and have contributed to a significantly smaller and better-run department than when it was created.
  • Results of reforms to date, while positive, are reaching the limit of their efficacy, as the state’s large-scale youth prisons themselves obstruct efforts to establish rehabilitative, family-centered and community-based approaches.

COMMENTARY: In a commentary (“Locking up kids”) in The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, CFJC Director Julie L. Biehl explains why CFJC has done extensive research into the workings of the Illinois juvenile justice system and has begun to publish its findings.  

COMMENTARY: The City of Chicago’s Report on Guns Is Misleading

The City of Chicago’s study of crime guns seized by police made headlines but raised questions about how the City defines crime guns and data omitted from the “Gun Trace Report.”

In her commentary, “Sound Policies, Not Misleading Labels, are Best Tools to Address Gun Violence,” Stephanie L. Kollmann, CFJC Policy Director, takes a closer look at the details. “To be sure, the flow of guns into illegal markets and transfers is an important matter, and traces that include unlawful gun possession, as the report does, are useful data in addressing that problem,” Kollman writes. “However, we are left to speculate as to whether there may be any difference in the sources of guns recovered in relation to a violent crime, versus a licensing offense.”

Related: "An enormous list of names does nothing to combat Chicago crime"

NEWS: Time to Abolish Mandatory Sex Offender Registry

kollmannStephanie L. Kollmann, CFJC Policy Director, recently urged a state advisory task force to recommend an end to the state’s mandatory uniform sex offender registry requirements, including restrictions on where people on the registry are permitted to live.

In testimony before the Illinois Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Task Force, Kollmann emphasized that decades of experience and research about sex registries has proven that mandating registration for everyone with sexual offenses does not improve public safety and can actually endanger the public by disrupting family stability, housing, and employment.

Not only is the registry unfair and unproven as a public safety tool, the state has made it exceeding difficult and expensive — and in many cases impossible — for youth to petition successful for removal from the registry requirements. “With over 2,500 young people on the juvenile registry and growing, only about 1% petition for removal each year – despite overwhelming evidence that maintaining youth on the registry is bad public policy,” Kollmann said.

“The juvenile removal statute is currently built ‘upside down,’ as though registries and restrictions are grounded in sound research and evidence and the problem is merely that, for a select few, they are applied too broadly,” she said. “Thus, the burden is shifted to a small number of presumably-exceptional youth to gather their records, obtain an assessment, organize and file a petition, and argue their case in court – all without access to a court-appointed attorney. This process takes about a year and a half to complete and represents hundreds of hours of work by costly professionals – risk evaluators and attorneys – work equivalent to well over $10,000 per petition.”

Read her testimony » 

NEWS: Shobha L. Mahadev Comments on Juvenile Life Without Parole

MahadevThe “Morning Shift” on WBEZ recently reported on the case of Addolfo Davis, a teen sentenced to life in prison in 1990. After a review of his case and rehabilitation, a court soon will consider allowing him to leave prison in 2020 at the age of 44.

Host Jennifer White asked Shobha L. Mahadev, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Law at CFJC, to explain the U.S. Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama ruling that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders and comment on the impact on Addolfo Davis and many others with life sentences for crimes committed as juveniles.

“Like Addolfo, a lot of the young people serving the sentence were the product of trauma, violence, abuse in their homes and communities,” Mahadev said. That doesn’t excuse their actions, but it gives us a context which is exactly what the United States Supreme Court has asked us to look at. The Court has asked us to consider who a young person is in terms of their development and all of the science we have learned in the last decade or so. Young people, we know, are unable to foresee consequences in the way that adults are able to do. They act with more impulse. They’re more susceptible to peer pressure. They’re unable to extricate themselves from really difficult circumstances in their families and communities.”

Listen to the full Morning Shift program. The interview with Mahadev begins at the 8:20 mark.

We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of CFJC.  This is our story. 


Many thanks to everyone who helped make our 25th anniversary celebration a big success!  Find photos from the event »

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.

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.