Youth-led Advocacy

Juvenile Justice Council

All Programs

Mikva Challenge’s Safety & Justice Council (SJC) is a group of young advocates on the mission to ensure that young people who have been affected by the juvenile justice system are being heard and valued as human beings. We want to see that issues facing Cook County youth are being addressed using a trauma-informed lens that includes both communities and public decision-makers.

The Safety & 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. Youth in the council explore issues related to juvenile justice, community safety, police accountability, and other relevant safety topics while taking a more holistic approach toward public safety and restorative justice.


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.


2023 Recommendations


Throughout the summer, Mikva Challenge youth policy makers identified the most pressing issues and inequities currently affecting Chicago youth. Read the Safety & Justice Councils 2023 White Paper.


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