R.E.A.L. meets on a weekly basis with cohorts of incarcerated youth at IYC-Chicago, IYC-Warrenville, and IYC-St. Charles. R.E.A.L. facilitators lead a curriculum that focuses on revolutionary political education and successful reentry preparation. R.E.A.L. also coordinates visits of guest speakers, film screenings, and field trips for youth to leave prison and meet with community partners in safe spaces in society.
This year, we also launched our REAL Talk Freedom Education series of workshops with youth inside IDJJ facilities. The idea behind these workshops is to discuss theory and matters directly relevant to each young person’s life in a way that is accessible and builds their own critical thinking skills and self-perception.
Thus far, we have developed and facilitated workshops on Racism and Critical Race Theory, Beyond the Gender Binary, Sexuality and Consent/Sexual Health,
Economics and the History of Capitalism, and Introduction to Colonialism / Imperialism. We plan to also incorporate conversations on environmental issues and the climate, amongst other workshops as we develop them.
At a number of these workshops, we talk directly about the topic’s intersection with the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequities revealed by its disparate impact on communities.
In order for R.E.A.L. to build meaningful relationships with youth who are currently incarcerated and soon reentering into their communities, there is a need for consistent, open communication with participating youth. In addition to coordinating weekly meetings, we are also set up on the phone lines of all youth in the program and have coordinated it so that the youth do not pay for any phone calls to R.E.A.L. program directors. Since we set up access to youth phones in March of 2022, we have received over 100 phone calls with a total over 1,000 minutes on the phone.