Kearney, Cecilia

Senior, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Major: English Literature

Thesis Director: Christina Rivers, Department of Political Science

Faculty Reader: Bill Johnson González, Department of English

Bio: Cecilia Kearney is an Honor student at DePaul University pursuing a degree in English Literature. Within the DePaul community, she is a board member for the DePaul Urban Garden and a board member with Students Against Incarceration. Outside of school, she is an active organizer with prison and detention center abolitionist groups such as the End IL Prison Lockdown Coalition and the Final Five Campaign. Her commitment to being a part of transformative alternatives to incarceration and dealing with harm inspired her thesis topic and she hopes to be a part of the organizing community in Chicago for many years to come.

Abstract: This project explores how individuals who practice and participate in processes of transformative justice for young people navigate their work within the dominant juvenile justice system. Transformative justice processes are community-based and relationship-based and originate in indigenous practices. They are alternatives to the current carceral system which deals with harm in a punitive way and has proven to be ineffective and devastating to the lives of people affected, particularly Black and Brown communities. The prison industrial complex is often highly bureaucratic, impersonal and ineffective. This research showcases the difficulty of practicing transformative processes with young people in the Chicago-area in a society that has relied on punitive punishment for centuries to deal with harm committed by young people.

Through conversations with individuals with decades of collective experience with transformative justice, this paper explores how the carceral system prohibits the practice of transformative processes for young people who may be involved in harm committed in their communities. Interviews were conducted with circle facilitators and keepers, participants of transformative justice practices, abolitionists, educators working to integrate transformative justice into academic spaces, individuals affected by the carceral system, and the judge of the first community restorative justice court in the country. For many of the individuals interviewed, many of these identities overlapped.

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