Photographer and professor Richard Ross has spent the last five years documenting juvenile detention facilities throughout the nation. The NewsHour recently spoke with him in his studio at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In the summer of 2013, with funding from the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Children and Family Justice Center organized a trip to Menard Correctional Center for 30 family members of individuals serving juvenile life without parole.
In 2006, the CFJC and other juvenile, legal defense, and human rights organizations founded the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children. Housed at the CFJC, the Coalition seeks to ensure that Illinois' sentencing laws and procedures are fair, constitutional, and hold youth responsible for their crimes in age-appropriate ways, while also acknowledging their immense potential for change, growth, and rehabilitation. The Coalition is committed to keeping the approximately 100 individuals in Illinois serving juvenile life without parole sentences and their families informed and empowered.
Ralph, Esi's son, was given three life-without-parole sentences at 17. While in prison, Ralph enrolled in classes studying several languages, social sciences, and electrical skills. Esi, isolated and frustrated, looked for help through justice and faith groups. After a 2010 Supreme Court decision, Ralph became eligible for parole and was finally released last fall. He has become an advocate for reform, while Esi has begun working with the Campaign