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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. In 2020-21, JJC worked to develop and deliver virtual Know Your Rights and Expungement workshops for Cook County youth.

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, 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.

2020 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 recommendations.

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