about the book
America locks up more young people—approximately one million teenagers annually—than any other nation in the world. Girls represent the fastest-growing percentage of our juvenile justice system, and a vastly disproportionate percentage of juvenile offenders are African American. As an award-winning family court judge, Irene Sullivan knows the statistics all too well, but she also knows the faces behind the numbers. With Raised by the Courts, she takes us behind the scenes to a segment of American society that routinely makes headlines—but in many ways remains invisible to us. Delivering eye-opening accounts of the broken families, broken promises, and broken systems that have failed our most vulnerable citizens, she also offers a strong dose of hope, reporting on excellent new juvenile programs throughout the country.
Determined to end America's status as an "incarceration nation," Judge Sullivan was not content to simply hear cases at the bench. She got involved at all levels, learning as much as she could about the cycle of teen violence from law enforcement officers, case workers, psychologists, and from the young offenders themselves. After sending three adolescent girls to Umatilla Academy for Girls in rural Florida, she made an unannounced visit to the facility and was shocked by what she saw. She soon set an investigation in motion, leading Umatilla to be shut down. When 19-year-old Leo Boatman was convicted of brutally murdering two college students, Judge Sullivan was not afraid to visit him in prison, determined to understand the road that had led this foster child to become a killer.
Raised by the Courts provides solutions and puts a much needed humanitarian perspective on the unique question of juvenile justice while delivering promising statistics, such as programs in the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department that reduced arrests by 46% between 1998 and 2008. She notes that the world once looked to the United States as the leader in this field; the first juvenile courts created in Chicago a century ago were models of humane, effective treatment. Restoring that spirit of innovation, Judge Sullivan’s book is a beacon of success.