Fight to beat incarcerated youth recidivism includes all ages


Runners start thru the west gate at Wicker Park

All ages took the fight against recidivism of incarcerated youth to the streets in a 5k race in support of Tabula Rasa's inaugural Family Fun Run.  They wanted to raise awareness and funds.  They succeeded with both.

There were sixty-one runners who started the race at the west gate in Wicker Park early in the early morning of Sept. 18. Participants included students and faculty from Orr and Wells High Schools and staff from York Alternative School, 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno's office and IL State Representative Maria "Toni" Berrios's office. They increased the treasury by about $1,000.


Chelsea Armstrong prepares to give racers instructions

"Too many kids coming out of jail are going right back in," said Chelsea Armstrong, a Chicago Public School teacher at York Alternative High School which is within the Cook Country Department of Corrections. "Many of these children are brilliant but when they are released they have no support systems to break out of their environment, peer pressure, insecurity and violence."

Armstrong moved to Chicago from New Mexico in August 2006 in search of a job in a not-for-profit. She ended up going to an education job fair and accepting a job at York Alternative, which consists of several CPS schools. There are three levels and are further broken down by male, female. Armstrong works with 18-21 year old males in the maximum-security area.

Thirty-five percent of juveniles released from Illinois Youth Centers are back behind institutional walls within one year, according to an Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice report. Last year $1,200,325,203 was spent on housing detainees in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Seventy-three percent of those detainees returned to imprisonment within three years of release.


First place went to Jarvis Buchanan, an Orr High School student and second went to Orr Coach Travis Moyer


Judy Waitz from San Francisco, CA, was the first woman across the finish line

With the belief that this state and city crisis must be eradicated, Armstrong and others banded together and set up Tabula Rasa as a 501C3 in February of 2009. They are working with the City to identify City owned property on which they will be able to develop a transitional facility where they will be able to obtain supportive services. Logan Square architect Juan Moreno is working with them to in these efforts.

In November, they will be organizing workshops to begin delivering some of those services though they will not have their own facilities.  They will include mini workshops for such skills as money management and housing as well as job fairs and mock interviews.

To offer assistance contact Chelsea Armstrong by email





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