Herschella Conyers is an attorney who, along with several judges, recently invited a bunch of people to the University of Chicago to talk about violence and the growing number of teens getting entangled in the criminal justice system.
Typically, these types of gatherings are organized by social workers, community activists, educators, politicians or even clergy. What was unique about this one is that it was put on by African-American judges and legal experts who often interact with youth at a point when interventions — if there had been any — have failed.
A clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School, Conyers was a public defender from 1986 to 1993. She would be the first to tell you that many of the children she represents have led complicated lives. In the 1990s, she represented one of the two boys convicted of dropping 5-year-old Eric Morse to his death from a Chicago Housing Authority high-rise.
In this edited conversation, I started by asking Conyers why "Living Like We're Bulletproof: The Public Health Crises of Youth Trauma & Violence" was convened:
A: Several of us started talking about this last year, but when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was killed and President Obama came to town earlier this year, it nudged us to get it done. We thought maybe we could get more people to engage because the news was on the front page. We want to let people know they have to engage every day and not just the day of the headlines.
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