Cherie Livett Bombell

Kids Behind Bars, Geneva Illinois

Browsing Posts in Kids Behind Bars

A new reader to this site has taken some pictures of the cemetery in Fox Run, Geneva Illinois. Except for this cemetery, there is no visual evidence that Illinois Youth Center at Geneva ever existed in Geneva or that hundreds of children, young men and women spent years behind bars at the facility.

Mike was eventually paroled to the YMCA in Aurora Illinois where he continued to attend junior college. Because of the temptations and pressure of friends in his old neighborhood, he agreed not to be paroled to Chicago. The realization that Chicago wasn’t a good option came after Mike visited his family on furlough. He’d smoked pot and excitedly told me on his return, “My fence was so glad to see me!”. The parole to Aurora didn’t last.

I don’t remember my response to Mike but I’ve never been able to answer those questions to my own satisfaction. Did I unfairly impose my values on him? Did I use my influence and power in my role to create an unrealistic expectation that would only lead to disappointment and self-loathing? Did I make his life harder to live? As professionals in the ‘helping’ careers, where do we draw the line when we have influence and power over others? Do we use a Christian ethos as an excuse to convince ourselves that we must ‘save’ others that are less fortunate? After 40 years, I still can’t find an answer that I’m certain is totally, morally true for me.

Aerial view of Illinois State Training School, Geneva, Illinois 1974

Thousands of children are being held behind bars through no fault of their own. Education can raise awareness and make a difference.

Tweet One of the guys I knew the longest at Geneva was Mike (not his real name). He walked into my office for the first time, looking like an old, decrepit man. He didn’t or couldn’t look up. His face was drawn and bony; his body thin, shriveled and folded down onto itself. His affect […]

Link to photos of Geneva Girls School Department of Corrections circa 1900.

The inmates were only a few years younger than me. Most were smart though not educated; most came from inner city Chicago – ‘the ghetto’. Most were born into poverty and I into security. They’re black; I’m white. My color and social standing bestowed ‘privilege’ on me – a valuable commodity that those kids didn’t have access to.

Before boys, the girls would ‘go steady’ with each other. Couples were evident by their dress – slips or petticoats hung a few inches below the hem of the state issue dresses. Socks were mixed and matched between couples. A red sock on the right foot, yellow on the left matched the mirror reverse on the other half of the couple.

Graveyard

1 comment

Her identity was never discovered so no one could be notified. Friends and family that knew her, loved her and grieved for her never found out what happened or where she is.

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