Chicago Chapter members convened this evening for our annual Holiday Party and Toy Drive. Guests enjoyed festive holiday season food, beverage, music, company, and cheer.
Each member donated at least one toy to benefit the holiday toy drive organized by St. Sabina’s parish in Chicago. Members contributed a remarkable volume of toys—so many that it exceeded our initial capacity to haul so many. Thanks to St. Sabina’s for sending extra help.
The event also featured presentation of the 2016 Kathryn Smith Matkov Award to Elizabeth (Betsy) Clarke, founder and president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI). Chapter member Gabriel Fuentes presented the award, pictured above with Ms. Clarke and Chapter President Sheri Mecklenburg. We were honored and pleased to have Ms. Clarke and her daughter, Carolynn Pelletier, attend for the presentation.
Ms. Clarke has spent her career advocating for the rights of children, both in the court system and in the arena of legislative reform. The result is an impressive array of accomplishments: In 2000, Ms. Clarke founded the Juvenile Justice Initiative, a collaboration between the Woods Fund and the MacArthur Foundation. Prior to that, she served as juvenile justice counsel for the Cook County Public Defender and as juvenile justice coordinator in the State Appellate Defender’s Office. Ms. Clarke also is the co-founder and director of the Midwest Juvenile Defense Center, a co-founder of the North American Council on Juvenile Justice, an advisory board member of the National Juvenile Defender Center, and a co-founder of the National Juvenile Justice Network.
At the helm of the JJI, Ms. Clarke’s recent accomplishments are significant. The JJI’s mission is to transform the juvenile justice system in Illinois by reducing reliance on confinement, enhancing fairness for all youth, and developing a comprehensive continuum of community-based resources throughout the state.
Led by Ms. Clarke, the JJI has worked to:
- Reduce the number of children subject to confinement in Illinois;
- Reform juvenile sentencing;
- Develop community-based alternatives to incarceration for children;
- Improve access to counsel for children accused of criminal offenses; and
- Change the focus of confinement conditions to place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and avoiding recidivism, as opposed to punishment.
Ms. Clarke is a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of juvenile justice reform and is a worthy recipient of the Matkov Award for her lifelong work and important recent achievements on behalf of children and minorities.
Happy New Year!