Evanston Adopts Guaranteed Income Pilot Program

Thanks to the leadership of @Councilmember Cicely Fleming and @Northwestern University, the Evanston City Council last night unanimously appropriated $700,000, matching Northwestern’s contribution of $300,000, investing $1 million total to launch Evanston’s Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. This 1-year pilot aims to provide randomly selected residents with $500 monthly payments over 12 months. Payments would be made to an equal number of approximately 166 residents from each of the following three categories: 18-24 year-olds, seniors citizens (over 62 years old), and undocumented residents.

As Executive Director Patrick Keenan-Devlin stated last night in support of the proposal, “$500 per month in unrestricted funds for emerging adults, seniors, and undocumented residents experiencing poverty would be transformational in alleviating poverty within our community. This Program would provide crucial stability and consistency to the most vulnerable individuals and families in our community who have been most deeply impacted by the pandemic.”

Check back here in the coming weeks and months to learn more about the roll-out of this historic cash transfer program!

Moran Center stands with D65 and Supt. Horton

The James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy strongly supports Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s ongoing efforts to improve “educational outcomes for all children by eliminating racial predictability and inequalities in achievement.”

Specifically, the Moran Center supports the teaching of critical race theory in District 65 and in classrooms across the nation. While we understand this curriculum is not the “end all be all” in dismantling harmful narratives aimed at oppressed groups, this curriculum cultivates inclusivity – fosters unity in diversity – and encourages self-awareness in the brilliant minds of young people, many of whom are already tirelessly working to upend systems of oppression. A curriculum that fosters critical thinking and reflective conversations is fundamental to education and essential in moving towards justice through understanding.


We are thereby disturbed that an advocacy group based in Georgia, which promotes a far-right political agenda filed a lawsuit to interfere in District 65’s anti-racist efforts.  The Moran Center supports the “Racial and Educational Equity Statement” adopted by the District 65 School Board, and Superintendent Horton’s recent statement that he will continue to “advance the important work of building equity in our schools”, despite the distraction of this lawsuit.

Throughout the last year, our nation has faced a great collective trauma, exacerbated by deeply rooted structural racism. Outraged, many youths have become transformative community leaders and change agents demanding greater equity within our schools. The impact that young people have had in our community and nation underscores the importance of race-based dialogue taking place in our schools. The Moran Center applauds the efforts of all educators who are committed to bettering students through their own personal development and who encourage students to grow in the classroom by promoting reflection of identity, bias, and privilege, as well as empower students to act against hate in every form.

We encourage you to also read our restorative partner’s, Pastor Michael Nabor’s, powerful statement regarding the lawsuit filed against District 65.

Victory for Restorative Practices in Springfield

Victory for Restorative Practices in Springfield

Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Executive Director

Five years ago, Cardinal Blaze Cupich called on the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago (“CLG”) to foster restorative justice practices, amplifying and safeguarding the transformational restorative work being carried out by Father Dave Kelly at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. Restorative justice invites community members who had caused harm or who had been harmed to identify and repair harm, as well as strengthen community ties by focusing on the needs and obligations of all members.

Betsy Clarke, President/CEO of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, invited me to attend one of the initial meetings convened by the CLG to explore what role the legal community could play in fostering restorative practices. Exasperatingly, Judge Stuart Katz of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Juvenile Justice Division kicked off that meeting by saying, “I started a restorative justice program in my courtroom several years ago and at every turn, the Public Defenders thwarted its effectiveness. They refused to allow their clients to participate, out of fear that their clients might incriminate themselves…”

I recall sitting across the table from Judge Katz and thinking, “I wouldn’t allow my clients to participate in a restorative justice practice either. It’s too risky… What if they admitted to the crime in question or some other crime for that matter?”

Judge Katz then proposed a solution: “If we want to foster restorative justice practices,” he said “we have to bring along the defense bar… We must somehow shield what offenders say during a restorative justice practice from being used against them later on.” 

For months following that initial meeting, I partnered with Judge Katz, along with the Moran Center’s Fellow Andrew Sowle, in drafting an Illinois Supreme Court Rule that would later serve as the template for our statewide legislation to confer an evidentiary privilege between participants of a restorative justice practice for what is said and done during a restorative justice practice, making whatever is disclosed during a practice privileged in the same way that a conversation between an attorney and client is shielded from disclosure in court.

In speaking with national experts on restorative justice, like Professor Shannon Sliva of the University of Denver and Professor Sandra Pavelka of Florida Gulf Coast University, we learned that in instances where states, either through legislation or court rule institute restorative justice practices or programming, privilege and confidentiality protections often appear in initial policy drafts but are then later scrapped during the sausage-making process due to institutional players’ fears that restorative justice practices might be employed for nefarious purposes. If successful in providing an evidentiary privilege to restorative justice participants, either through court rule or statute, Illinois would be a national pioneer.

Following five years of inspiring teamwork by advocates, on July 15th, Governor Pritzker signed our proposal – Senate Bill 64 – into law. The new law, sponsored by State Senator Robert Peters and State Representative Carol Ammons and shepherded by the Juvenile Justice Initiative through the legislature, historically throws off the chill of self-incrimination as a disincentive for authentic participation in a restorative justice practice.

As the legislation states, we now hope that “residents of this State [will] employ restorative justice practices, not only in justiciable matters but in all aspects of life and law.” And that’s the goal – to seed restorative justice everywhere and in doing so radically transforming systems and communities. Hopefully, by affording this privilege – that what is said and done during a restorative justice practice cannot be later used against participants in a court of law – restorative justice practices will be more widely employed by our courts, in our schools, in our families, and in our communities. 

Critical Renters Ordinance Passed in Cook County

The Moran Center is pleased to announce the passing of the Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO), officially extending basic, fair, and long-overdue protections to renters and landlords in more than 245,000 suburban households, including renters served by the Moran Center. 

Moran staff attorney Megan McClung (pictured) served on the RTLO Advocates, a representative group for housing rights/legal aid agencies. McClung worked on reviewing and providing feedback on ordinance revisions, promoting awareness for the ordinance, and testified before the Cook County zoning board during the first attempt to pass the ordinance and again this week submitting written testimony to the zoning board. 

This new ordinance will help ensure the right of renters in suburban Cook County, like many of our clients. Too many of the people we’ve served have experienced lockouts, excessive move-in and late fees, and astronomical increases in rent. For clients of the Moran Center, this means they will be able to stay in their homes and get the support they need. 

You can read the full press release HERE.

A Restorative Partnership

The James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy gratefully announces that we received a grant from Healing Illinois and The Chicago Community Trust to fund Circle Up: Building a Restorative Community, a collaboration with Youth Job Center, Curt’s Cafe, and Evanston’s Youth & Young Adult Division offering restorative practices training to BIPOC emerging adults and elders in the City of Evanston. These circle keepers will facilitate and support community building, racial truth-telling, healing and welcoming circles in Evanston.

Stay tuned for more updates on future virtual events and information. Questions? Email Pam Cytrynbaum at pjc@moran-center.org

Transformational Legislative Victories in Springfield

Thanks to the leadership of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and tireless advocates, the legislature passed transformational educational, criminal justice, and economic reforms in the waning hours of the 101st General Assembly. Of particular interest to the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, are the following legislative proposals:
Carried by State Senator Kimberly Lightford and State Representative Carol Ammons, House Bill 2170 requires statewide kindergarten assessments to drive classroom instruction and measure students’ progress, acknowledges the impact of trauma on students’ learning, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, develops a framework for building restorative and trauma-informed schools, calls for the State to produce plans to tackle the inevitable learning loss stemming from the pandemic, establishes policies to address the underrepresentation of students of color in advanced high school classes, and mandates Illinois students learn about the “the history of the pre-enslavement of Black people from 3,000 BCE to AD 1619, the African slave trade, slavery in America, the study of the reasons why Black people came to be enslaved, the vestiges of slavery in this country, and the study of the American civil rights renaissance.” Special thanks to our partners at the Illinois Collaboration on Youth for their efforts in drafting this proposal and effectively advocating for its passage!
Written by advocates from the Coalition to End Money Bond, including our partners at the ACLU of Illinois, A Just Harvest, Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Illinois Justice Project, and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and sponsored by State Senator Elgie Sims and State Representative Justin Slaughter, House Bill 3653 comprises 764 pages and promises a comprehensive array of criminal justice reforms, including the Pretrial Fairness Act, ending money bond in Illinois by 2023. 
On January 13th, both houses of the Illinois legislature passed the Employee Background Fairness Act, Senate Bill 1480, which would make employment discrimination based on a conviction record a civil rights violation under the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Employee Background Fairness Act would also overhaul the troublesome background check process, which has long been one of the most difficult hurdles for those with prior convictions in securing employment, including for those assisted by the Moran Center’s Expungement & Sealing Help Desk.
The Public Housing Access Bill, Senate Bill 1980, championed by Senator Christopher Belt and State Representative Sonya Harper, creates new standards for the Public Housing Authorities of Illinois when going through their criminal background screening process. The proposal would reduce Housing Authorities’ abilities to use criminal records in considering housing applications and sets-up due process hearings for applicants to plead their cases if denied housing. This Act aims to alleviate the high rate of homelessness among people with prior convictions and reduce recidivism stemming from such disenfranchisement.
The Employee Background Fairness Act and Public Housing Access Bill passed the Illinois General Assembly because of the tenacity of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois, including our close partners at Cabrini Green Legal Aid.
We now urge Governor Pritzker to sign House Bill 2170, House Bill 3653, Senate Bill 1480, and Senate Bill 1980 into law to repair historic institutional injustices that have disproportionately impacted Black and Brown Illinoisans for generations. This is justice, and justice changes everything!

Board Chair Betsy Lehman’s remarks from the Evanston Women’s March

Board Chair Betsy Lehman gave remarks at the Evanston Women’s March on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at Dawes Park.

Thank you so much for inviting me to speak today.  It’s an honor and a privilege.

I am Betsy Lehman, Chair of the Board of Directors for the James B Moran Center for Youth Advocacy.  For those of you who don’t know the Moran Center, we provide integrated legal and social work services for youth and young adults up to age 26.  We also provide educational advocacy, run a school-based civil legal clinic in partnership with District 65, operate a criminal records expungement and sealing help desk at the Skokie Courthouse, and advocate for a “Restorative Community,” among many other efforts to address the critical needs of Evanston youth and their families.

We are all painfully aware of the injustice and inequity that lives in our criminal justice and policing systems.  It has been used as a tool to oppress and control.  We see it regularly on a national level in the horrific violence against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, our own Jacob Blake, and far too many others.  We’ve seen it in our state where racially disparate policies such as “stop and frisk” violate basic constitutional guarantees against unlawful search and seizure, and where meaningful police reform continues to be a battle every step of the way.  And we see it right here in Evanston, where youth of color are disproportionately disciplined and suspended from our schools.

Let me give you just a few facts:

  • 2019 data from the Prison Policy Initiative showed that, on any given day, close to 50,000 youth are confined in facilities away from their homes—most in locked, prison-style spaces; 40% of these facilities isolate youth in locked rooms for periods of four hours or more, and 43% use restraints such as hand/leg cuffs and strait jackets;

  • Black youth are arrested, and confined to juvenile institutions, far out of proportion to their share of all youth in the US; in IL, the ACLU estimates that Black youth are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of White youth;

  • As Covid-19 spread across the US, the number of Latinx and Native American youth in detention facilities actually increased, despite calls for  juveniles to be released;
  • Marijuana usage rates are similar among white and Black Americans, however Black Americans are more than 3 1/2 times as likely to be arrested on possession charges; legalization and decriminalization has not changed this;
  • At the end of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that the imprisonment rate among Black Americans was more than five times the rate among whites; a generation of Black fathers has been lost to incarceration.

    These are just a handful of examples of the devastating results of the systemic racism inherent in the criminal justice system.  (Or as, Patrick Keenan-Devlin, the ED of Moran likes to say, “the criminal injustice system.’”)  We demand a system that will bring true justice to those in it.  A system that is rehabilitative and restorative to both victim and offender.  A system that asks what one needs, not just what one has done.  A system that not only rejects, but protects against the criminalization of poverty and mental illness.  A system that refuses to funnel black and brown bodies into institutions or legitimizes their murders.

    The Moran Center is advocating every day for policies that support women and families in Evanston and the values that I know we all share—education, healing, compassion, support of the most vulnerable members of our community, and, to paraphrase Bryan Stevenson, one of my heroes, not judging anyone—especially children—by the worst thing they have ever done.

    We stand together today in solidarity with these values.  Make no mistake.  Justice is on the ballot.  Join me in demanding a government that is committed to these principles:

  • a community where basic needs are met, and all members have the opportunity to thrive;

  • an educational system that is equitable and supportive of students with special needs, and looks at each child as an individual;

  • a robust commitment to mental health;

  • a commitment to protect the rights of those people and communities that have historically been persecuted and disinvested; and

  • a criminal justice system—from policing to sentencing—that rejects mass incarceration, over-criminalization, and is guided by the principles of fairness and racial equity.
And while these values are completely absent at the highest level of our government, it’s also essential to vote for leaders who reflect this vision all the way down the ballot.
This is not just about the White House or the Senate.  It’s the statehouse, it’s county-wide and local government, and it’s the judiciary.  Get out there and vote!
Thank you.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Justice Amplified

Ruth Bader Ginsburg–a woman of firsts, who dedicated her life and her life’s work to those who are counted last.

Famous for challenging gender inequality and discrimination, Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg advanced a liberal jurisprudence for the benefit of all Americans denied equality and victimized by discrimination.  It is called “justice.”  

She did not achieve this accidentally, but created a vision, adopted a strategy, pursued her goals, and worked tirelessly–all because she believed “justice demands.”

At the James B. Moran Center, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not only our model and inspiration, she is our colleague, our co-worker, and OUR SISTER!

John Lewis’s Loving Light

Moran Center Executive Director Patrick Keenan-Devlin recently wrote this piece reflecting on the late Congressman John Lewis’ visit to Chicago/Evanston, Illinois in 2018 – sharing what he witnessed to inspire others to see children, young people, “through [John Lewis’s] loving light.”

Congressman John Lewis walked up the stairs of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, (i.e., Cook County’s jail for children) and was greeted by six teenagers wearing gold jackets over their JTDC-issued, navy blue sweatshirts. “These are the Ambassadors, young people who’ve attained the highest number of points possible while in the Detention Center. They’ll be giving you the official tour today, Congressman,” Deputy Superintendent Diane McGhee said. The teenagers then led us in and out of classrooms and down, winding corridors, speaking with authority and purpose. Ms. McGhee and I trailed behind. She then leaned in, pointing out the one young woman Ambassador. “She’ll be leaving us soon, and I’m just heartbroken. She’s been here for four years… She pleaded guilty to murder earlier this year, and will likely be sentenced to another two years next month…” 

At that moment, the young woman stepped into the “Barber Shop” with Congressman Lewis, proudly explaining how she recently graduated from the Center’s hairstylist program with high honors. Congressman Lewis then proudly and tenderly assured his young guides, “No one has forgotten you. There is reason to hope, and you guys give me hope.” To our community, our system, these youth were monsters who needed to be silenced and cast aside; but to John Lewis, they were the future, and he heard them, and he loved them.  

At the Illinois Youth Center-Chicago (i.e., a state prison for children), we sat in plastic folding chairs in what appeared like a typical school gymnasium and listened to youth in the Storycatchers Theatre Program perform, “Imagine More,” a collection of original stories and songs on the theme of heroes and mentors. Following the performance, John Lewis dragged his chair up to the front of the gymnasium and offered to answer questions. A young man in the back row timidly raised his hand.

Congressman Lewis called on him, and the young man shot up from his seat like a rocket. I don’t remember the question that the young man posed or the response offered by the Congressman, but what’s seared in my memory is the image of this young man standing perfectly straight throughout Congressman Lewis’s lengthy answer to his question. The Congressman asked “You’re still standing?! Do you have another question?” “No,” the young man said solemnly. “I just wanted to thank you for answering me.” 

The magnitude of this moment was unmistakable. In witnessing the weight of this young man’s physical gesture and his plain, yet heartfelt expression of gratitude, all I could think was “How many adults had failed to listen to this young man?” And yet, there was John Lewis, Civil Rights icon and U.S. Congressman, listening. Listening to the silenced. 

For 24 hours in March last year, I had the profound privilege of accompanying Congressman John Lewis and his co-author of their book series, March, Andrew Aydin, on tours of the JTDC and IYC-Chicago. It feels greedy, now  – as our nation mourns his unfathomable loss and celebrates his extraordinary life – not to share what I witnessed. If we are to be judged by how we treat our most vulnerable, the least of us, then John Lewis was the most of us, by any measure.

He radically heard and saw and loved those children, those children we’ve judged beyond redemption, cast aside, and shunned. He saw hope, humanity, possibility. And his vision reflected back to those young people, who saw themselves through his eyes. And they became those possibilities right then and there. All I could think, all I can think, is what if we all saw all our children in that light, through his eyes. What if we saw and heard and loved them as they deserved? What if the system was designed to rise to support, educate, and defend them instead of for the sole purpose of crushing them.

John Lewis loved, inspired, and heard the kids detained at the JTDC and IYC-Chicago. Not transformational, yet transformational. Not revolutionary, yet revolutionary. Not radical, yet radical. 

As our nation mourns and honors Congressman Lewis, Evanston, our community, must face our own mourning and reckoning. We will lay to rest three young men, all victims of gun violence. With their deaths, our community tragically loses not only these young men but those who caused this harm and pain, their assailants. All those who love these young people are suffering. The ripple effects are ongoing. The grief, ceaseless. What would John Lewis do, see, hear or say? How would he look at our children? We say we want to honor his legacy, his vision. What if we saw all our children through his loving light.  

Written by Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Executive Director, James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy