Cook County Leaders Vow to Reform Juvenile System at Roosevelt University Forum


CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–May 29, 2015. On the heels of release of a Roosevelt University study proposing major reform of the Cook County Juvenile Justice system, top county leaders vowed in May during a Town Hall Forum at the University to work collaboratively for real change.

Cook County Board President Ton Preckwinkle (in photo above, center), Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez (above standing) and Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli were among top leaders who spoke in favor of real change to the system at the May 19 Town Hall Forum in Roosevelt’s 10th floor library. The event was sponsored by Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation and the Illinois Justice Project.

Preckwinkle told a full house of people at the forum that she is in favor of increasing accountability and transparency at the juvenile detention center. She called for investment in programming that can better support youths and also for there to be a priority in moving cases more expeditiously through the system.

Those suggestions and others she made are among recommendations being made in a new juvenile justice needs assessment that was released in March by Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation and the Institute on Public Safety at Adler University.

“Just a few years ago, talk of these kinds of changes to the Cook County Juvenile Justice system wouldn’t have been possible,” said Nancy Michaels, a Mansfield Institute researcher who helped craft the report entitled “What Can the Cook County Juvenile Court Do to Improve Its Ability to Help Our Youth?”

“We are seeing possibilities for promising change in the system and an increase in community and system stakeholder collaboration due to a shift in leadership and in attitude about how we handle young people who are system involved. There is a new sense of hope that changes to the system made in conjunction with youth advocates and community groups will be imminent and will benefit our youth,” said Michaels.

Alvarez told juvenile justice stakeholders and community youth advocates during the Town Hall Forum that she embraces balanced and restorative justice as a means for reducing violence among youths in communities.

Campinelli also vowed that her office would do all it could to keep kids off the prison pipeline path and onto a road to success.

“My office is committed to working with all agencies and supporting legislation that stops treating children as adults,” Campinelli said.

Recommendations made by the Illinois Justice Project, which have been endorsed by Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute and many other grassroots groups, as well as the new study by Roosevelt and Adler universities, have become catalysts for change to the juvenile justice system, Michaels said.

“We see that there is much cross-over in the recommendations made in the Juvenile Justice Needs Assessment and the Illinois Justice System’s 10 Commitments document, which we recognize as affirmation that both are timely and important ideas for change. Both have been reviewed by key stakeholders in the juvenile justice system and we have high hopes for real change in the near future,” said Michaels.