Youth-led Advocacy

Juvenile Justice Council

All Programs

Mikva Challenge’s Juvenile Justice Council (JJC) is a group of young advocates on the mission to improve the juvenile justice system in Cook County, Illinois. They exist to represent youth voices of all those in Cook County who are not heard or counted.

The Juvenile Justice Council is made up of youth (age 16-20) who live in Chicago and/or Cook County and work together to provide Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle with diverse youth perspectives on the County’s policies and programs involving young people and the criminal justice system in order to reduce incarceration rates and recidivism among juvenile youth in Cook County. 


Noteworthy Achievements

  • Present recommendations annually to the Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on how to improve outcomes for court-involved youth.
  • Partnered with Superintendent Leonard Dixon and Juvenile Temporary Detention Center staff to redesign spaces at the JTDC to ensure they are more youth-friendly.
  • Collaborated with tech gurus to create a web app, which allows youth to find out if they qualify to expunge their criminal record and links youth to pro bono lawyers who will help them expunge their record.
  • Lobbied for the Automatic Expungement Bill in Springfield, IL and was recognized at the Reconnecting Pathways Conference for their efforts.
  • Leveraged community support and participated in peace circles at the Safety & Justice Challenge Community Action Summit of 2019 that focused on underrepresented communities like Austin, North Lawndale, and Roseland.
  • Participated on the Children of the Incarcerated Taskforce led by Illinois State Congresswoman Delia Ramirez. Youth provided feedback on recommendations to the Justice Department and social work stakeholders to advocate for holistic and trauma informed practices to be utilized with families experiencing incarceration.
  • Collaborated on multiple projects with Ali Abid and Delrice Adams of the Justice Advisory Council to continue to lay foundational groundwork in the Juvenile Detention Center
  • Facilitated and presented the JJC Summer 2020 White Pages to Depaul University Law School Students
  • Developed and delivered multiple virtual Know Your Rights and Expungement workshops for Cook County youth.


2021 Recommendations


Throughout the summer, Mikva Challenge youth policymakers identified the most pressing issues and inequities currently affecting Chicago youth. At a town hall event, they presented their policy recommendations and identifying ways to take action to turn their vision for our city into a reality. Read the Juvenile Justice Council’s full set of 2021 policy recommendations


Past Policy Papers

While their presence and charisma was inspiring, it was how they substantiated the reason/purpose for the recommendations that was most motivating and caused an immediate internalized commitment that we would do what we could to bring their ideas to life.

Bilqis Jacobs-El, Director, Facilities Management at Cook County