213 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol.36:3 2016]
juvenile cognition generally cautions against incarceration, but it does not explicitly provide
alternatives to our current system.93
The history of our judicial system’s approach to juveniles, a survey of the conditions in our
prison systems, and a discussion of these jurisprudential theories are reasons to believe that
legislators, judges, and attorneys need to invest their time and resources in seeking alternatives to
incarceration for juveniles. Not only is incarceration expensive, it has detrimental effects on our
nation’s youth.94 Moreover, incarceration has de minimus value in terms of rehabilitation.95 In fact,
it may lead to a higher likelihood that the child or adolescent will reoffend in the future.96 This is
particularly significant because most juveniles will be released from prison during their lifetimes,
which means that they will either integrate into society or reoffend and continue to live on the
V. NORTH LAWNDALE: A CASE STUDY
A few communities have created programs that focus on the root of the problem: lack of
community support, positive role models, and cohesive families. The reality is that many juvenile
offenders grow up in dysfunctional families with few positive role models.98 Moreover, many
communities, especially in the inner city, face an uphill battle, fighting against failing schools,
soaring unemployment rates, and gang activity to name just a few.99 One church on Chicago’s
West side is attempting to rehabilitate its community by addressing some of these issues.
In 1975, Wayne Gordon and his wife, Anne, moved into North Lawndale, one of Chicago’s
poorest communities.100 “Coach” Gordon, as he’s called in Lawndale, coached wrestling and
93 See supra Part IV.B (discussing adolescent development, the effects of incarceration on juveniles, and the
implications of therapeutic jurisprudence).
94 Christian Henrichson & Ruth Delaney, The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers (2012),
http://www.vera.org/pubs/special/price-prisons-what-incarceration-costs-taxpayers; BARRY HOLMAN & JASON
ZIEDENBERG, THE DANGERS OF DETENTION: THE IMPACT OF INCARCERATING YOUTH IN DETENTION AND OTHER
SECURE FACILITIES 2–3 (2006),
95 See Holman & Ziedenberg, supra note 94 at 4–7 (citing evidence which shows that incarceration may actually
increase recidivism among youth).
96 Laurence Steinberg, Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, ANN. REV. CLIN. PSYCHOL. 66 (2008),
97 Compare U.S. DEP’T OF JUST., STATISTICAL BRIEFING BOOK: JUVENILES IN CORRECTIONS (2015),
http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/corrections/qa08201.asp?qaDate=2013 (“Nationally, 54,148 juvenile offenders were
held in residential placement facilities on October 23, 2013.”), with End Juvenile Life Without Parole, AMERICAN
CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, https://www.aclu.org/end-juvenile-life-without-parole (Last visited Mar. 13, 2016)
(“Approximately 2,570 children are sentenced to juvenile life without parole or "JLWOP" in the United States.”).
98 Amber Carlson, How Parents Influence Deviant Behavior Among Adolescents: An Analysis of their Family Life,
their Community, and their Peers, PERSPECTIVES JOURNAL 3–5 (2012),
99 See infra Part V (describing the conditions in the North Lawndale community as an example of this).
100 Between 1950 and 1960, the great black migration brought an influx of African American’s to the North Lawndale
community. LAWNDALE CHRISTIAN HEALTH CTR., North Lawndale History,
http://www.lawndale.org/content/north-lawndale-history (last visited Nov. 8, 2012). During this time the black
population grew from 13,000 to 113,000 and the white population declined from 87,000 to 11,000. Id. After this
population shift, North Lawndale’s population was approximately 125,000 and was 91% African American. Id.
Several race riots devastated the economic activity in the neighborhood during the 1960s, eventually causing Dr.