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Why a juvenile justice advocate builds relationships with Chicago’s most vulnerable young men.

In the final two years of his presidency, Barack Obama declared October National Youth Justice Awareness Month—and with good reason. The United States has the highest rate of youth confinement of any developed country, with more than 173 of every 100,000 minors in confinement. On average, about 2,900 cases per day pass through American juvenile courts. Given the number of vulnerable young people, the National Institute for Juvenile Justice Ministries is currently working on an initiative to ensure that every juvenile facility has a church or ministry connected with it. (Read more about it.)

“While young people are on the inside, we want them to be able to build these relationships so that when they get out they have places to go,” said Amy Williams, a juvenile justice advocate based in Chicago. “We also want to be the one-stop shop for anybody that does this kind of work.”

Williams never set out to do youth ministry. “I’ve just always had a heart for kids that society thinks have no value,” she said.

More than a decade ago, Williams intentionally moved into Chicago’s West Side to mentor and support young people who were caught in gangs, incarcerated, or otherwise connected to the criminal justice system through supervision, probation parole, lockup, or post-lockup transition. “I intentionally moved into a gang neighborhood and hit the streets building relationships with young people,” she said. “The work can range from community service to having guys move in with me once they return from lockup.”

Williams recently spoke with CT about how family tragedy led her to this ministry, why she connects so well with the young men she mentors, and how Christian …

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