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Notes

Sheriff Tom Dart Calls Cook County Jail a “Mental Health Ward.”

While the Cook County Board is attempting to cut the budget of the Juvenile Detention Center and to keep youth out of detention, Chicago’s City Council recently announced massive cuts to the budget of the City’s public mental health clinics. The city plans to close 6 of the 12 mental health centers by April of this year.  Sheriff Tom Dart tells the Chicago News Cooperative, here, that  the system “is so screwed up that I’ve become the largest mental health provider in the state of Illinois.”

Dart argues that closing mental health centers this year will only leave more people without options for care, which will lead to an increase in crime and arrests. 

Dart is just saying what those of us who work in jails and prisons have always known— when we provide for the most vulnerable citizen’s basic needs, crime goes down.

1 Notes

Incarcerated Youth Poets in Louder Than a Bomb Poetry Slam

Free Write, Young Chicago Authors, and the faculty of the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, have  teamed up to bring voices of youth in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center to the largest teen poetry festival in the country, Louder Than A Bomb (http://www.louderthanabomb.org).

Unlike all of the other poets at LTAB, who read on stage, our students will send audio recordings of themselves reading their poems. This means that, in addition to writing and performing their pieces,  they are learning how to digitally record and produce audio. We’d love to have you at the bouts to get loud in support of their efforts! Free Write staff will be on hand with video cameras to record the crowd’s reactions to our students’ work. We will then bring the videos back to the Detention Center, so that our students will see the impact their words had on the LTAB audience.

Our team will be performing at least two times. Here is the UPDATED bout schedule:

Saturday 2/25 at 10am - Quincy Wong, 623 S. Wabash
Friday 3/2 at 2pm - Randolph Cafe in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.

Please pass this invitation along to friends and colleagues.

Thank you for your support. 

Notes

Juvenile Re-entry and School Return

The CCJTDC is the largest juvenile detention center in the United States. These youth stand at the intersection of many failing and dysfunctional systems, including the breakdown of family structures, increasing poverty and unemployment, escalating gun and gang violence in neighborhoods, and impersonal, failing schools. As for the justice system itself, they receive little in the way of therapy, counseling or legal defense, not to speak of job preparation or academic support while in detention. More than 90% of incoming youth report a history of sexual and other childhood abuse.

In 2011, I was  awarded an outstanding opportunity:  The Chicago Community Trust selected me as the “Emerging Leadership Fellow” for 2011. This award came with a grant to study, travel and write about my research on the problems of school re-entry and reintegration for youth emerging from prison. I am in the process of visiting several highly regarded projects in South Africa and in 3 U.S. regions to study new approaches to this problem. This grant has allowed  me to step out of the detention center and do actual fieldwork in other settings, reflect upon it, consult experts, and write.

A growing body of research examines the effects of trauma and violence on youth in juvenile detention. Yet little is known about the specific social, emotional and educational supports youth need in order to remain in school and out of detention, after being released from juvenile detention.

The recurring problems I have witnessed during the past six years have led me to seek viable solutions. Students are released and return repeatedly, dropping out of schools at high rates, often telling us that they were unable to re-enroll at their familiar old school. They wind up in trouble again, and land back in my classroom. Urban schools routinely turn away youths who attempt to re-enroll in school after their release from detention. Principals may be disinclined to welcome those returning students who are perceived as likely to depress test scores and to behave in disruptive fashion. Compounding this problem, the school itself may well have been the original point of arrest. In Chicago, thousands of youth each year are actually arrested in school or on school grounds.  

Part of my interest in visiting these organizations is to examine the multiple, concurrent stumbling blocks barring the way for students attempting to return to school, and try to determine what kinds of community interventions or support systems would give power back to these young people, who have been marginalized and pushed out of public schools.

Notes

How would you use $600 per student, per day?

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to the budget hearing on the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she wants to decarcerate Chicago youth, a goal which is right on target.  She wants to cut the population at the Detention Center by half- from 350 to 150 this year.

Preckwinkle says it’s cheaper to send a kid to Harvard than it is to lock him up. Of course, no one is offering to send our students to Harvard. In fact, detained youth are often those who have been marginalized and pushed out of Chicago’s public schools, where there is no incentive to take them back after they’ve served time. They won’t help to raise test scores, and often bring complex histories of trauma, emotional and physical abuse, along with other learning challenges. 
The question remains— what supports will exist for youth in Chicago’s communities once the cuts are made? Is  the County Board planning to pay for the services needed to support students in their return to public schools? Will they pay for the kinds of educational and social opportunities that make finishing high school or finding a job a realistic possibility for our kids?

For better or worse, for many of Chicago’s most vulnerable youth, the Detention Center is often the only site of contact with critical social services such as medical care, mental health care, education support and safe shelter. We need real options for accessing these vital services in the communities where our students and their families live. 



Notes

Escape Route: A Multimedia Immersion Into the Hearts and Minds of  Youth in Juvenile DetentionNovember  12, 2010, 6:00-10:00pmThe Chicago Art Department1837 South  Halsted 312-725-4CAD
This show, which will include painted portraits of Harriet Tubman and Maya Angelou, large  scale murals, a series of ceramic masks, and recorded  poetry and music, provides a rare opportunity to  see the talents, strengths and creativity of girls and boys in juvenile   detention.  About Free WriteFree  Write runs formal creative writing and poetry workshops  every  day inside the Detention Center school, engaging students in the study  of  contemporary poetry and literature that is relevant to  their life  experience. For  more information, please contact Amanda  Klonsky, or visit www.freewritejailarts.org.

Escape Route: A Multimedia Immersion Into the Hearts and Minds of  Youth in Juvenile Detention

November 12, 2010, 6:00-10:00pm
The Chicago Art Department
1837 South Halsted
312-725-4CAD

This show, which will include painted portraits of Harriet Tubman and Maya Angelou, large scale murals, a series of ceramic masks, and recorded poetry and music, provides a rare opportunity to see the talents, strengths and creativity of girls and boys in juvenile detention.  

About Free Write
Free Write runs formal creative writing and poetry workshops every day inside the Detention Center school, engaging students in the study of contemporary poetry and literature that is relevant to their life experience.


For more information, please contact Amanda Klonsky, or visit
www.freewritejailarts.org.

Notes

To the Prisoners

I call for you cultivation of strength in the dark.
Dark gardening
in the vertigo coal.
In the hot paralysis.
Under the wolves and coyotes of particular  silences.
Where it is dry.
Where it is dry.
I call for you
cultivation of victory
Over long blows that you want to give and blows you are going to get.

Over
what wants to crumble you down, to sicken
you. I call for you
cultivation of strength to heal and enhance
in the non-cheering dark, in the many mornings-after;
in the chalk and choke.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Notes

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed.
I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
Adrienne Rich

Notes

Teaching poetry and creative writing workshops to youth in Chicago’s juvenile detention center.

Teaching poetry and creative writing workshops to youth in Chicago’s juvenile detention center.