Juvenile (In)justice: Confronting Racial Disproportionality, Disparity, & Bias Against Children of Color

Friday, March 19, 2021
1:00-4:00 p.m. CST

Via Zoom

About the Symposium

This year’s symposium will bring together scholars, practitioners, and youth to address current issues impacting racial inequity in the juvenile justice system. Distinguished speakers will examine the intersection of race and justice-involved children, specifically among dual status youth and students. The symposium will also address juvenile justice reform in Illinois. Lastly, a panel of speakers will discuss possible solutions and best practices for reducing racial disproportionality and disparity in the juvenile justice system.

Symposium Format

This event will be held virtually in a synchronous format via Zoom.

Cost & CLE

This program is offered at no cost to participants and has been approved for 2.5 Illinois MCLE credits.

About the Children’s Legal Rights Journal

CLRJ is a journal published by law students at Loyola University Chicago in cooperation with the National Association of Counsel for Children. CLRJ focuses on issues affecting all professionals who work with children, including child welfare, juvenile justice, adoption, mental health and education. Generally, the readership consists of lawyers, social workers, physicians, researchers, mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, and educators.

Symposium Agenda

1:00-1:05 p.m. Welcome
  • Diana Arroyo, Symposium Editor, Children’s Legal Rights Journal
  • Diane Geraghty, Director, Loyola University Chicago’s Civitas ChildLaw Center
1:05-1:20 p.m. Introduction

Racial Disparities and Disproportionate Burdens:  Confronting Racial Inequities in Illinois’ Juvenile Justice Systems

  • Lisa Jacobs, Program Manager, Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy, and Practice 
1:20-1:55 p.m. Featured Speaker

An Examination of Racism and Racial Discrimination Impacting Dual Status Youth

  • Christian Bijoux, Director, Dually Involved Youth Initiative, Santa Clara County Superior Court
  • Jessica Heldman, Fellmeth-Peterson Professor in Residence in Child Rights, Children’s Advocacy Institute, University of San Diego School of Law
1:55-2:30 p.m. Featured Speaker

The Virtual School-to-Prison Pipeline

  • Victor M. Jones, Attorney, Children’s Rights and Disability Rights
2:30- 2:35 p.m. Break
2:35-3:10 p.m. Feature Speaker

Illinois’ Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Erin Johnson, Chief of Staff, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice 
3:10-3:55 p.m. Panel Discussion

Perspectives on and Solutions to Racial Inequity in the Juvenile Justice System

  • Tamela Meehan, Supervising Probation Officer, Cook County Juvenile Probation & Court Services 
  • Honorable Reyna Morales, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge, Children’s Court
  • Briana Payton, Youth Engagement Co-Chair, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission
  • Diego G.
  • Additional Panelists to Be Announced
  • Moderator: Lisa Jacobs, Program Manager, Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy, and Practice 
3:55-4:00 p.m. Closing Remarks
  • Chrissy Cullen, Editor in Chief, Children’s Legal Rights Journal

Symposium Presenters


Introduction & Panel Moderator

Lisa Jacobs manages Loyola University’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice, which seeks to advance fair, humane, and effective criminal and juvenile justice policy and practice. In that role, she also provides subject matter expertise and technical assistance to jurisdictions working to improve the outcomes of youth “dually involved” in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, in collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice. Prior to the Center’s launch, Ms. Jacobs served as Program Manager for the Illinois Models for Change Initiative, which was funded by the MacArthur Foundation to promote effective juvenile justice policy and practice in jurisdictions across the nation. Before coming to Loyola, Ms. Jacobs was Director of Judicial Education for the Illinois Supreme Court at the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, and as a member of the Illinois Court Improvement Project Advisory Committee. Ms. Jacobs previously served on the Federal Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice and as a gubernatorial appointee to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Board. 


Presentation Title: An Examination of Racism and Racial Discrimination Impacting Dual Status Youth

Christian Bijoux is the Founder and Managing Partner of Bijoux Consulting Group LLC and currently serves as the Program Director for the Dually Involved Initiative in Santa Clara County. He has consulted with public health and advocacy groups and community organizations on program and policy issues related to state and federal youth and young adult programs, as well as enhancing racial equity within organizations. Mr. Bijoux is responsible for providing system change management, including, but not limited to, identifying and prioritizing system issues and transformation opportunities that improve the success, outcomes, and positive development of youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile legal system. Mr. Bijoux is currently undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy, Social Policy at Brandeis University's The Heller School for Social Policy and Management.


Presentation Title: An Examination of Racism and Racial Discrimination Impacting Dual Status Youth

Professor Jessica Heldman is the Fellmeth-Peterson Professor in Residence in Child Rights at the University of San Diego School of Law and its Children’s Advocacy Institute. Prior to this appointment, she served as Associate Executive Director at the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, where she provided technical assistance and training to state and local jurisdictions, guiding the development of law, policy and practice within child welfare and juvenile justice systems throughout the nation. Professor Heldman is co-author, along with Professor Robert C. Fellmeth, of the 4th edition of the law school textbook Child Rights and Remedies and she most recently co-authored the article COVID-19 and Preventing Harm to Vulnerable Children for the San Diego Law Review. She also authored A Guide to Legal and Policy Analysis for Systems Integration and was co-author of the Dual Status Youth-Technical Assistance Workbook and the Guidebook for Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare System Coordination and Integration.


Presentation Title: The Virtual School-to-Prison Pipeline

Victor Jones is a civil rights attorney based in New Orleans, Louisiana, whose work focuses on children’s rights and disability rights. Through engaging in integrated advocacy (litigation, public policy, and public education), Mr. Jones has educated hundreds of teachers, parents, and lawmakers on immigrant children’s rights, special education laws, student discipline laws and due process, and about protecting access to children’s mental health services. His work in children’s civil rights issues has been profiled at the local, state, and national levels; and he is a published legal scholar, researcher, frequent guest lecturer, and media commentator on these issues. Mr. Jones holds a J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from Xavier University of Louisiana.


Presentation Title: Illinois’ Juvenile Justice Reform

Erin Johnson is currently the Chief of Staff at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. She previously served as Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer for the Office of the Governor where she worked on criminal justice and public safety issues. Ms. Johnson taught middle school math in Philadelphia as a member of Teach for America prior to entering law school. She received a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin, an M.S.Ed from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. from Dartmouth College.



Judge Reyna Morales is originally from Guatemala America.  From 1997 up until her  appointment to the bench by Governor Evers, Judge Morales worked as an assistant public defender  representing indigent clients charged with crimes and those facing termination of parental rights, mental health commitments, guardianships, juvenile cases, and civil cases. Judge Morales finds that a constant in the criminal justice system is the prevalence of mental health issues.  Her current assignment is in the Children’s Court Division handling CHIPS, JIPS, guardianships, and delinquency matters.



Tamela Meehan has been employed with the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County since 1999. She currently serves as a Supervising Probation Officer within the Clinical Support Division and co-chairs her departments Committee on Results for Equity. Ms. Meehan received her MSW from Southern University at New Orleans and Master of Jurisprudence - Child & Family Law from Loyola University. She is also a 2019 Chicago United for Equity fellow, is a trained Peace Circle Keeper and was recently appointed to serve as a Commissioner with the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. 



Briana Payton is the Youth Engagement Co-Chair for the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and a Policy Analyst at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Ms. Payton moved to Chicago after completing her bachelors in Sociology and African American Studies at Princeton University. She worked in reentry services at the North Lawndale Employment Network before completing her master’s in social work with a focus on criminal justice policy at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. During her program she interned at Federal Defender Program, where she wrote mitigation reports to improve client sentencing outcomes, and also at a local high school where she provided school-based counseling to students. In March of 2020, Ms. Payton was appointed to the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission where she draws on her experience serving youth and people impacted by the criminal legal system to lead efforts to center the voices of directly impacted youth in statewide juvenile justice reform efforts. 



Diego is a youth incarcerated at Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ). Diego is Vice President of the student council at IDJJ. Diego is a college student, member of Phi Theta Kappa the international honors society for community colleges, and an aspiring entrepreneur.