Chicago Area Project: the Beginning
In the early 1930s, Shaw initiated the Chicago Area Project in three of the city's highest crime areas to test delinquency prevention techniques. Russell Square in the South Chicago area was one of the three communities’ areas and was a perfect neighborhood for the experiment. It was very poor, highly congested and filled with immigrant steel workers, many of whom worked night shifts while their families clung to old rural traditions and tried to cope with life in a highly industrialized urban setting. Fifteen youth gangs were the scourge of the community, although they never posed the violent threat that we associate with gangs today.
Shaw’s approach was to rally the parents to establish the Russell Square Community Committee. Shaw's objective was to lessen the attraction of delinquency for gang youth. Besides approaching youth - and encouraging families to take a leadership role in the community committees - Shaw also embarked on an even more controversial path. He began involving some of the "unsavory" elements of the community in neighborhood plans and the decision-making process. Recognizing that the "bad elements" of a community often wielded power and could not be simply avoided, Shaw actually solicited their support and utilized their power and strength to meet the community’s needs. He even went so far as to use ex-convicts in the delinquency prevention program.
Shaw believed that by reaching out to schools and following up with parolees as they re-entered community life, truancy and, ultimately, juvenile delinquency could be curtailed and the community could control its own destiny.
1940s: Integration pioneers
In 1940, leaders on Chicago’s near northwest side approached Shaw. Within a relatively short time, the Near Northwest Civic Committee (NNCC) was organized under the leadership of Executive Director Daniel "Moose" Brindisi. A beloved CAP pioneer, "Moose" remained as the head of NNCC until his death in 1993.
By 1947, Clifford Shaw's self-help concept had spread to a number of other low-income communities, where seven community committees were established. The 1940s also brought a change to South Chicago's low-income communities as hundreds of thousands of Hispanics poured into the once all-Polish neighborhoods.
CAP also began launching programs in Chicago’s African American communities. In 1941, Shaw employed Golden B. Darby, an African American leader on the south side, to organize communities in that area. Then, the dynamic Sadie Waterford Jones was added to the staff along with several other local community workers. During the 1940s, CAP became a leader in the area of integration. CAP was asked to spearhead the Boy Scouts of America integration efforts.
An article in Harper's Weekly in 1944 eloquently sums up CAP's achievements:
"Perhaps the results of the Project should not be measured by the rate of juvenile delinquency alone. The project has uncovered latent talent within the communities. Committees have improved parent-teacher relationships and shouldered responsibility for school attendance and improvement. They have brought to bear effective public opinion on specific contributors to juvenile delinquency. They have succeeded in leading children away from crime and reincorporating parolees in the neighborhood."
1950s: Building Leadership
During the 1950s, Chicago Area Project continued to change, adapt, and grow in more than a dozen Chicago communities. By the late 50s, CAP was meeting with small, largely Hispanic groups of residents in South Chicago to formally discuss juvenile delinquency and other unaddressed local problems.
One of CAP’s formidable undertakings was in the area of Bronzeville - Chicago’s South Side Harlem - where, in the late 1940s, the delinquency rate was 400 times that of the rest of the city. In an article appearing in The Saturday Evening Post, July 125, 1950, a Bronzeville mother testified to CAP’s impact on her community.
“I don’t mean to say we don’t have bad boys in our neighborhood anymore. But people can walk the streets without fear and parents are not so much afraid of letting their younger children out-of-doors and having them get caught up in one of those stealing gangs.”
CAP continued to expand during the 1950s. By 1958, there were approximately 15 community committees in operation.
One prominent African American leader during this time period was CAP staffer Sadie Waterford Jones. She began to enlist a large group of women on the south side who began working with girls, ages 9 - 18, who had been ordered to appear in Juvenile Court. From these efforts, Mrs. Waterford Jones reorganized an existing group that became the Beatrice Caffrey Youth Service in 1952, in honor of a local teacher who was a volunteer. One of the services of BCYS was to help the court find foster homes for African American girls who were often sent to institutions. This troubled Mrs. Waterford Jones, who felt that there should be a “an in-between home” for such girls. Mrs. Waterford Jones launched Halfway House Committee, Inc., a non-profit organization, dedicated to raising funds for this home.
CAP continued to expand during the 1950s, and by 1958, there were approximately 15 community committees in operation.
1960s: Organizing the Community
The impact of CAP began to be realized on a much broader scale. Chicago Area Project became the prototype for delinquency prevention and welfare programs of the Kennedy-Johnson era. Its principles of community organization, self-determination, and use of natural leaders indigenous to a neighborhood were quite radical when first proposed by Shaw in the early 1930s. By the 1960s, however, these ideas began to gain popularity throughout the United States. During this period, CAP joined the War on Poverty in its earliest stages. In this role, CAP provided programs for out-of-work, out-of-school youth.
This period also saw the beginning of work in suburban areas, including Rolling Meadows. In addition to its highly successful affiliate/community committee program, CAP began to undertake new activities. In conjunction with the Illinois Youth Commission, CAP organized workshops for young executives interested in serving on the boards of directors of youth agencies.
1970s: Making a Difference
By the early 1970s, there were approximately 22 community committees affiliated with the Chicago Area Project. In 1970, South Chicago Organized for People’s Efforts (SCOPE) became a strong community-based organization to which CAP soon extended its sponsorship, guidance, and financial assistance.
During the 70s, community services and CAP faced a number of challenges. In the early 1970s, the state of Illinois abolished the Illinois Youth Commission and transferred institutional and community services to the newly created Department of Corrections (DOC). DOC administrators were critical of the historical relationship between the state and CAP. In addition, DOC attempted to require that staff perform a dual role as community workers and parole agents. CAP vigorously opposed this plan, pointing out the conflicting nature of the two roles. CAP argued that the role of community workers was essentially educational, while the role of parole officers was primarily an extension of the correctional process. CAP lobbied for the introduction of an initiative in the state legislature to establish the Commission on Delinquency Prevention (H.B.199).
In 1976, Governor Daniel Walker signed the bill and appointed Anthony Sorrentino (a CAP Pioneer) as Executive Director of the new commission. This new structure preserved CAP's focus on prevention, enabling it to carry on with single-minded devotion its community endeavors for dealing with the prevention and treatment of delinquents. Although CAP had engaged in some political efforts prior to this point, this situation made Chicago Area Project aware of the importance of maintaining close ties with state legislators.
1980s: The Rand Report
During the decades from the 1930s to 1981, CAP continued to prove that it could make a difference in Chicago. It opened doors - and began partnerships with many public and private organizations, and started a nationwide movement of community based crime prevention. CAP showed that neighborhood self-help could be used as a powerful organizational principle upon which to build new mechanisms of control in crime-ridden minority communities. In 1984, Chicago Area Project, one of the most remarkable social experiments in modern urban America, celebrated its 50th Anniversary. During this year, The Rand Corporation Report on CAP, the nation's first community-based delinquency prevention program, was prepared for the National Institute of Education. The report examined CAP from both a historical and a contemporary perspective. The Rand Corporation Report stated:
Then in 1981, CAP faced a new challenge. The state legislature did not approve the budget for the Commission on Delinquency Prevention, thus abolishing the commission. Without funding, community service workers had to be terminated. CAP board members approached the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in order to discuss possible funding. DCFS recognized Cap's long history, experience, and accomplishments with community based programs designed to help troubled youth and delinquents. Because of a favorable agreement reached between with DCFS and CAP was able to re-hire most of the community workers.
"All our data consistently suggests that CAP has long been effective in organizing local communities and reducing juvenile delinquency. This analysis therefore raises serious doubts about the loudly trumpeted conclusion that nothing works in crime prevention it indicates several dimensions of successful program implementation that may be especially relevant, now that resources for prevention efforts are shrinking."
The report also pointed out that:
"One of the most important features that distinguished the Area Project from other social agencies was its willingness to work with persistently difficult and delinquent youth. CAP did not abandon persistent juvenile offenders before, during, or after conflict with social control authorities. For both child and community, CAP was an advocate for all time."
In addition to its proven affiliate programs that represent the organization's original community committee concept, CAP began to develop special projects that were outgrowths of specific community needs. CAP Executive Director David E. Whittaker was appointed in 1986. Under Mr. Whittaker's leadership CAP has spearheaded new initiatives, expanded programming, and increased funding.
1990s: Marking Years of Progress
Throughout the 1990s, CAP continued to advocate for youth programs in Illinois. This often required CAP to take a proactive stance in the face of proposed funding cutbacks. For example, when severe funding cutback proposals threatened programs in 1991, CAP Executive Director David E. Whittaker traveled to Springfield, Illinois, to testify. He pointed out that youth agencies were literally competing for the lives of children. CAP's efforts, combined with a strong outpouring of support from parents, community residents, volunteers, advocacy groups, and local leaders, resulted in convincing the governor and the general assembly to reinstate funding for important programs.
In 1991, CAP expanded its services into DuPage County by establishing the DuPage County Area Project, or DuCAP. Originally funded by CAP, but then received direct funding from DCFS in 1992. Today, DuCAP is a CAP affiliate.
In 1995, when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate 600,000 summer jobs nationally and 11,000 in Chicago as part of a "Recession Package," CAP was on the front lines organizing a rally outside the Dirksen Federal Building. This protest, as well as other across the U.S., successfully persuaded the U.S. Senate to postpone action on the package.
Throughout 1997 and 1998, CAP and other youth advocates lobbied for procedural modifications to prevent the Illinois Juvenile Justice Reform Act from criminalizing young people. The Act became law on January 1, 1999. Advocacy efforts were moderately successful.
Since the adoption of the Juvenile Reform Act, CAP has worked in partnership with the Juvenile Court of Cook County and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office to reinvigorate and reassess a program of intervention that the Court and CAP had pioneered over fifty years ago. In the 1990s, through a renewed version of this program called the Juvenile Justice Diversion (JJD), CAP and the Court have established a systematic approach to the referral and involvement of youth who would otherwise receive no treatment and who therefore had a high potential for repeating as offenders, in a more serious manner.
The first Special Project in JJDP was the Juvenile Justice Diversion Project (JJDP), launched as a pilot in 1997 and since proven to be an effective alternative to prosecution. This is evident by the increasing number of communities opting to participate in the program, as well as the on-going research that demonstrates that JJDP is highly effective in reducing recidivism among program participants.
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