My name is Jennie Sutcliffe; I was born and raised outside Ithaca, NY but come to Palermo by way of Chicago where I have been living and working for the last 6 years. I have always had an interest in social justice and the rule of law, in Chicago I worked on criminal and juvenile justice reforms from the perspective of access to health care. I decided to apply to the Fulbright – Fondazione Falcone – NIAF grant as an opportunity to expand my work and understanding of juvenile justice policies internationally. Italy has a very progressive juvenile justice system and I was eager to learn more about the best practices here. The legacy of Giovanni Falcone is also very powerful; it’s a real privilege to work in affiliation with the Foundation in his memory.
My research focuses on interventions for youth in the juvenile justice system from a mafia-background and the way in which these interventions fit, or don’t fit, within the principles of juvenile justice in Italy. By conducting qualitative interviews I have sought to understand why traditional juvenile justice interventions (such as messa alla prova) don’t work for these youth and what types of interventions judges and assistante sociale are turning towards or developing instead. I think this also ties into the mission of the Fondazione Falcone in that it embraces the idea of promoting a path of legality and being a good citizen.
This has been an amazing experience for me. Thanks to the generosity of many of the assistanti sociale I really have had the opportunity to understand their motivations and strategies for working with these youth. I have also been privileged to be part of a working group (laboratorio) run by the Istituto Centrale di Formazione del Ministero della Giustizia on the theme of mafia and minors. I come from working in government in Illinois so the opportunity to be part of a government run workgroup in another country was very interesting for me.
In terms of my career I see my time in Palermo as an important step towards becoming a more engaged and thoughtful advocate and policy-maker. A common theme in my interviews was the absence of (or lack of knowledge about) a network, Italian or European, to discuss and share juvenile justice best practices, and the express desire for such a network to exist. This is an idea I would like to take with me as I move forward in my career, whether it is with international NGO, Italian non-profit or another policy/advocacy organization.
Lastly, I have LOVED my time in Palermo. Palermo is an amazing city with a lot to offer. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had here, from joining a women’s flag football team, to volunteering with AddioPizzo and traveling around Sicily.