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Recent Work & Activities

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Health & Medicine has worked to address the unique health issues of Court-Involved Youth. The work collaborated with a broad-based group of community and systems partners to advocate for policies, services, and programming that are gender-responsive, trauma-informed, and culturally competent. 


Improving health outcomes for justice-involved youth: Youth of color and LGB/T youth are both over-represented within the juvenile justice system, making up about 85% and at least 15% of the incarcerated youth population respectively. Once incarcerated, LGB/T youth experience disproportionate rates of mistreatment. The Court Involved Youth Project worked to implement a system-wide framework for the safe treatment of youth regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The Project mapped health resources and strategies to strengthen the health care referral networks in the communities to which court-involved youth most often return to support their well-being and success. 

History & Accomplishments 
Since 2002, Health & Medicine’s Court-Involved Youth Project (Project) has been an influential force for change in the juvenile justice system in Illinois, particularly in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), Cook County Juvenile Probation and Court Services (Probation), and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Working with a broad range of partners, and utilizing strategies such as policy development, advocacy, provider and stakeholder education, and policy and program implementation, Health & Medicine worked to ensure that some of our communities’ most marginalized youth get the effective, comprehensive health services they need, both inside the juvenile justice system and in their communities upon release. 

Over 25 years ago, Health & Medicine created the Illinois Women’s Health Coalition, a vehicle to bring together those interested in health reform and its impact on women and girls. This led Health & Medicine to a deeper examination of the key health threats to girls in the juvenile justice system and to the creation of a “girls’ bill of rights” that was accepted and promoted by the leadership of the JTDC. Health & Medicine helped develop a healthcare agenda for JTDC that recommended treating complex needs, with particular attention to the psychological impact of violence and trauma on mental and physical health. We co-sponsored training on gender-responsive approaches to incarcerated girls who have experienced trauma. One of the coalition’s central accomplishments is the acceptance of several major policy recommendations at the JTDC, including the creation and implementation of an Office of Girls’ Justice Services. 

The Court-Involved Youth Project then began to focus on another growing and often overlooked population with special needs:  lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGB/T) youth. Health & Medicine worked to implement a system-wide framework for the safe, competent, and effective custody and treatment of youth regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGI). This resulted in the passage of an LGB/T policy in the Cook County juvenile justice system as well as a series of policies within the DJJ, some of the first of their kind in the country. 

Health & Medicine’s Court-Involved Youth Project then began collaborating with the Illinois Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Response Collaborative to develop policy and program recommendations for justice-involved populations who experience high levels of trauma that impact their ability to lead healthy lives. 

Much remains to be done to address the complex needs of youth involved in the carceral system. While Health & Medicine does not now have a focused project on this issue, we remain committed to advancing policy and systems to better support these youth.  


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