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!

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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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