All of Us: The Lives of Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

In 2003, Girl Talk published a terrific booklet called “All of Us.”

From the introduction of the book:

All of Us” was planned and written by girls in the Neon Girls placement home.  The girls who wrote this book have all been locked up in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, and many of the girls have also served time in other detention centers or stayed in other placement homes.  These girls are experts in juvenile incarceration.  They are also experts at surviving isolation, violence, loss of loved ones, poverty, addition, and abuse.

The book project began when the girls were given the opportunity to do some type of creative work through Girl Talk’s Dialogue Project.  Options included creating a quilt, recording an audio-tape together, drawing and painting, developing a script or theatrical performance, or creating some kind of writing project.  The overwhelming response was “we want to write an autobiography.” “We need to tell our stories.” “People need to know about our lives.”

Over the course of four weeks, the girls decided which topics should be covered in the book, brainstormed about their experiences and insights, and produced the writing, and artwork that has been included here.  Some of the writing was facilitated by questions asked by Girl Talk volunteers.”

Below is one example of the writing that was included in the book:


What changes do we want to see in the juvenile and criminal justice systems?

Create a separate unit for pregnant girls at CCJTDC.  Pregnant girls are sometimes targeted by bullies.  This is because they know that pregnant girls are afraid to fight for fear of harming their babies.  Also, pregnant girls should get more food.

Don’t give girls so much time at CCJTDC.

Better food at JTDC.

Don’t arrest so many girls for status offenses like curfew violations and truancy.  Just because we skip school or stay out late doesn’t mean we deserve to go to jail.


Some judges really listen to us, but others don’t let us say anything.  We need more judges and parole officers who listen to what’s going on.

Be able to go home for Christmas.

Be able to go to family funerals.  Sometimes kids are allowed to go, but other times they ask and they never get to go.

You can download the entire booklet here.


About chicagogirltalk

We are a group of women who are working together to support young women who are incarcerated in our local juvenile jail.

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