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Youth-led Advocacy

Juvenile Justice Council

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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.

In partnership with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Judicial Advisory Council, Mikva Challenge launched the Juvenile Justice Council (JJC) in the summer of 2013. JJC serves as an advisory and advocacy body that provides diverse youth perspectives on the policies and programs involving young people and the criminal justice system, with a particular emphasis on how to reduce rates of incarceration 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 Leondard 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, expunge.io, 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.

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