Introducing the Girl Talk Curriculum: Film, Art and Resistance With Young Women in Detention

The Girl Talk Leadership Team is committed to documenting our practice in order to share what we learn with others. Over the past few months, a subset of our team has been working together on standardizing and documenting our curriculum.

Today, we are proud to share the product of this work with all of you. We are sharing this curriculum not because we think that it is perfect. We know that it is a work-in-progress. We are sharing it because we believe strongly in building community and in fostering movement-building. We know that there are many individuals and organizations across the world that are working with girls in conflict with the law. We know that resources are unfortunately limited and that folks are particularly stretched thin in this time of worldwide fiscal austerity. Yet we also know a lot of creative work is happening everywhere on the planet. We would love to learn about that work too.

We hope that those who read and then use this curriculum will decide that they too are willing to share their work with us and others. We strongly believe that the only way that we are going to dismantle the prison industrial complex is through popular education, organizing and movement-building. This is our small contribution towards that goal.

While this curriculum was written and is used with girls and young women in detention, we know that it would be of equal benefit to girls on the outside. We invite those who work with young women in various capacities to use this if they so desire.

We want to thank our funders, particularly the UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, for supporting the development of this curriculum. We want to thank Caitlin Seidler for designing the guide. Finally, a special thanks to all of the young women who are working as program facilitators with us at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Girl Talk would not be possible without your commitment and your passion.

From Critical Resistance Just Seeds Portfolio Project

We would very much like to know who is interested in this curriculum guide. You can help us by taking two minutes to let us know a little about you and we will then e-mail a PDF version of the curriculum guide to you. You can click on the link below to complete our curriculum registration form. We will send you the curriculum within 7 days (usually much sooner):

Click here to register for the curriculum guide

Scenes from Our April 20th Dinner and Dialogue Event…

Photo by Bunmi A


We are excited to share some photos and comments from our first ever Dinner and Dialogue event that took place on the evening of April 20th. We were thrilled to be able to gather together our program facilitators, leadership team members and other supporters to discuss the value of gender-responsive programming.

Photo by Bumni A

We were proud to unveil our new GIRL TALK Manifesto at the event. Participants were greeted with delicious appetizers and a sit-down dinner. Each table was adorned with a table tent that included key facts about girls in the system such as:

There are approximately 350 young women on probation in Cook County.

Approximately 87% of all young women on probation in the Cook County juvenile legal system were young women of color.

Between 1999 and 2008, arrests nationwide of young women for aggravated assault increased 12%.

One of the objectives of the Cook County Female Offender Services program is to create a safe, trusting environment to promote the development of the female minor’s confidence, self-esteem and life skills.

Between 20 to 50 young women are detained nightly at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Nationwide, approximately 30 percent of all arrests are of girls.

Girls comprise the majority of all status offenders. Status offenses are minor offenses that aren’t crimes for adults, for example, truancy and runaway.

Almost all young women in contact with juvenile legal systems report having experienced childhood emotional, sexual, and physical abuse and assault.

“Gender-specific services” are programs and approaches that address the unique challenges and strengths of young women in the juvenile legal system.

There continues to be a lack of reliable, accurate, and comprehensive information about good prevention and intervention programming for girls.

Approximately 20 percent of young women in Cook County probation are pregnant or parenting.

It costs approximately $85,000 per year to incarcerate a juvenile in Illinois.

We shared information about Girl Talk’s work at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. We also engaged the participants in discussing these questions in small groups:

1. What does “gender specific policy” mean to you?
2. What do you think key components of a gender specific intervention with young women in the juvenile legal system should include?
3. What are some of the ways that violence, girls, and the juvenile legal system are intertwined?
4. How can there be justice in an unjust juvenile legal system?
5. What are three things we can do to prevent young women from coming into contact with juvenile authorities?

Photo by Bumni

The discussion elicited several interesting and insightful responses. We were particularly blessed to have several young people in the room for this event. One group of young people shared the following responses to the questions:

1. Gender specific: specific to gender, branding someone, stereotyping
2. -Build sisterhood
-Stop fighting with each other
– Listen to each other- maybe someone will say what you need to hear to keep your head up
3. –By institutional violence
-Police harassment
– No laws in place to protect all identities
-The laws and system are set up to experience violence- individually and institutionally
(Ex: bond out of jail –no longer the right to public defender, have to get a lawyer)
4. CAN’T
– System set up to fail us!
–if there was justice no need for the system

5. –Harm Reduction
–self care
–B.E.L.
-Accountability
6. Most of the people being incarcerated are colored females under the age of 18

We think that their response to question #4 “How can there be justice in an unjust juvenile legal system?” was particularly revealing. After the discussion, our participants were able to engage in a gallery walk to see what everyone else had to say about the questions.

Photos by Bunmi A

Special thanks to the Institute for the UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy for sponsoring this terrific event!

New Resource: Girls in the System Comic Zine


This new zine about girls in conflict with the law was illustrated and written by teaching artist Rachel Marie-Crane Williams. This is part of a larger collaborative initiative called the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline Comic Arts Zine Project. This initiative brought together the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Project NIA, and the Chicago Freedom School to develop a series of four zines, created by the teaching artists, Rachel Marie-Crane Williams and Elgin-Bokari T. Smith; and youth at the Chicago Freedom School and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC).

The zines feature the voices of youth affected by the juvenile justice system: the History of the Juvenile Court in IL, Girls in the System, Youth Stories (of the Incarcerated), and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. This zine series was developed in connection with “Unfinished Business–Juvenile Justice,” the community-curated exhibit at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, on view through August 2011.

You can download Girls in the System here as a PDF.

All other zines in the series can be downloaded from the Juvenile Injustice site.

Dinner and Dialogue on Wednesday: Don’t Forget The Readings…

We look forward to seeing all of you who RSVP’d to attend our Girl Talk Dinner and Dialogue event this Wednesday, April 20th. Please arrive promptly at 6:00 p.m. as this will be a sit down dinner.

Also. we strongly suggest that those attending the dinner read the following article by Dohrn and look through the following online report about the criminalization of girls in Chicago to prepare for the discussion.

Interested in Volunteering with Girl Talk? Join us on May 14th

If you are a young woman between the ages of 19 and 35 and are interested in working with incarcerated girls, we invite you to come learn about Girl Talk at our upcoming information session.

When: Saturday May 14th 2011
Where: UIC Commuter Resource Center, 750 S. Halsted Street, 2nd floor behind the inner circle
Time: 11 to 1:30 p.m. [Lunch will be provided]
RSVP to let us know that you will be coming: chicagogirltalk@gmail.com

You can download a flier here