Who we are
The Chicago Project works with young men in the Chicago area involved with the justice system in jail, court-ordered programs, or who have been identified as high-risk in their communities. Through our programming, participants don’t learn to read and write; rather, they learn to use reading and writing as a platform for self-reflection, deep thinking and community building. During the process, participants “read as writers” as they draft and publish their own personal memoirs. The program develops literacy skills, engaged dialogue and pro-social behaviors. Participants show improved interest in learning, increased ability to reflect and have positive self-projections for the future. The process doesn't just transform the lives of authors, but works with adults to engage with empathy and uses the stories to change hearts and minds in the private sector and amongst policy makers.
Where we are
We are involved in Cook County Jailand within the community at Roseland. On April 26, the first round of Cook County Authors presented their final illustrated memoirs at a Publishing Celebration. Family members, invited guests and jail staff joined the celebration as authors talked about the program and read from their final works.
in the Jail
In Cook County Jail, we don’t just transform the lives of participating detainees, but transform the culture of jail. We work in Division 10, max security with pre-trial detainees accused of violent offenses.
In the Community
We will create a safe space that serves as transitional employment and training for Authors leaving County to attend, as well as “outside” authors to come to as part of court-ordered or community based programming. We believe that work force development and employment opportunities for young men on the South and West
sides should include opportunities in the knowledge sector, not just low-skilled or physical jobs.
We believe: Chicago, like any place with epidemics of violence, geographic areas do not determine violent behaviors, nor does race, gender or class. Rather, like a virus, victimization begets victimization. Most violence is not arbitrary, but a reflection of trauma: hurt begets hurt—those who are hurt will hurt others. Our theory of change is based on healing, not punishment. We believe in consequences, but also compassion. Jobs are essential to stem violence, but victims must develop social emotional skills to confront their past and the constant traumas around them in order to participate in healthy communities and enter the workforce
Where we came from
ConTextos is an organization based in El Salvador and Chicago. In El Salvador, which is dubbed “the homicide capital of the world,” ConTextos provides programming to young people at-risk of, witness to, or responsible for violence. They providing literacy programs in public schools, juvenile detention and prisons, specifically individuals exposed to, accused of or guilty of violent offenses and gang-affiliation.