Close-up on juvenile justiceAuthor, former offender among speakers
By Jennifer Vanasco
Children who kill are called "super predators," "people with no conscience," "feral pre-social beings" -- and "adults."
William Ayers, author of A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court (Beacon Press, 1997), says "We should call a child a child. A 13-year-old who picks up a gun isn't suddenly an adult. We have to ask other questions: How did he get the gun? Where did it come from?"
Ayers, who spent a year observing the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago, is one of four panelists who will speak on juvenile justice at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, in the C-Shop. The panel, which marks the 100th anniversary of the juvenile justice system in the United States, is part of the Community Service Center's monthly discussion series on issues affecting the city of Chicago. The event is free and open to the public.
Ayers will be joined by Sen. Barack Obama, Senior Lecturer in the Law School, who is working to combat legislation that would put more juvenile offenders into the adult system; Randolph Stone, Director of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic; Alex Correa, a reformed juvenile offender who spent seven years in Cook County Temporary Detention Center; Frank Tobin, a former priest and teacher at the Detention Center who helped Correa; and Willy Baldwin, who grew up in public housing and is currently a teacher at the Detention Center.
The juvenile justice system was founded by Chicago reformer Jane Addams, who advocated the establishment of a separate court system for children which would act like a "kind and just parent" for children in crisis.
One hundred years later, the system is "overcrowded, under-funded, over-centralized and racist," Ayers said.
Michelle Obama, Associate Dean of Student Services and Director of the University Community Service Center, hopes bringing issues like this to campus will open a dialogue between members of the University community and the broader community.
"Students and faculty explore these issues in the classroom, but it is an internal conversation," Obama said. "We know that issues like juvenile justice impact the city of Chicago, this nation and -- directly or indirectly -- this campus. This panel gives students a chance to hear about the juvenile justice system not only on a theoretical level, but from the people who have experienced it."