WBEZ Chicago Public Radio began its series on juvenile justice after spending a year in a Chicago high school examining why only half the students graduate, says the Journalism Center on Children and Families. The series, which can be accessed at http://insideandout.chicagopublicradio.org , began Jan. 25 after reporter Robert Wildeboer was able to do reporting in the state’s youth detention facilities. Gov. Pat Quinn’s office reversed itself and allowed access.
Profiles in the series include Marcus, a 14-year-old struggling to resist the lure of street life and complete grade school; Angelica, a 19-year-old who has cycled in and out of youth prison twice; and Mario, a 20-year-old college student whose childhood was marked by violence and trauma. The unflinching, unwavering accounts of their troubles with the law raise the question: Can the juvenile justice system rehabilitate young offenders, rather than just detain them? Editor Cate Cahan hopes the project will foster discussions about the restructuring of the juvenile justice system. “The heart of this project is assessing whether or not these youth facilities are successful in accomplishing their goals,” she says. “It's a good time to shine a light on this institution and foster a discussion about what is being done for these kids.”