The Mikva Juvenile Justice Council (MJJC) wants to keep youth away from the criminal justice system. MJJC is developing new ways to help young people re-enter their communities for good. Chicago's Mikva Challenge centered around developing youth civic leadership is training thirty council members ages 15-21 to serve as an advisory and advocacy body to their local county president, Toni Preckwinkle. Their recommendations on how to positively reenter youth into their community could affect thousands of juveniles in Illinois.
Charlie Beltran, 19, was required to participate by his Parole officer but the assignment quickly turned out to be positive for him.
"To be honest I was forced to join, but after attending it changed my mind. Were using tools that help us define policies in a simple way, I'm here to help youth transition into the community permanently because I feel that the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) system is very difficult and not enough people care."
Given the complexity and seriousness of this task, developing youth voice for this council had to include social media and online tools. Enter News Genius. According to Chris Rudd, Director of the MJJC, the functionality of News Genius was a natural fit for their work.
"The use of Rap Genius allowed us to analyze policy and make complex government docs accessible and relevant to youth."
The group began to meet this summer and will continue through out the school year, using a combination of expert visits, research and tools like Rap Genius they are developing a holistic understanding of the issue. Given the age range, base knowledge, and experience in the group, online tools like News Genius have given the group an equal platform to practice dissecting documents and annotations became a great way to translate difficult policies and government forms like expungement records and Chicago Pubic Schools (CPS) policy about re-enrollment for youth.
After the initial six weeks of their work, the group will meet with the Cook County Judicial Advisory Council to present their first set of recommendations. Their initial goals include specialized education plans to transition back into public schools, one-on-one career mentorship, and online connected education while in custody.
Keep up the MJJC and News Genius!