Elizabeth Clarke, President and Founder

Betsy Clarke is the founder and President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative. Prior to developing the Juvenile Justice Initiative, Betsy served as Juvenile Justice Counsel for the Office of the Cook County Public Defender for six years, and served for 15 years in the Office of the State Appellate Defender, including appointments as Legislative Liaison and Juvenile Justice Coordinator.

Ms Clarke is the co-founder and director of the Midwest Juvenile Defender Center, a co-founder of the North American Council on Juvenile Justice, an advisory board member of the National Juvenile Defender Center, and a co-founder and active member of the National Juvenile Justice Network.   She is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and serves on both the Child Law and Legislative Committees.

Ms. Clarke is a frequent speaker and has authored numerous articles, including the chapter on Appellate Review in the IICLE Juvenile Law Handbook, and a detailed study of the Illinois juvenile transfer provisions published in the National Journal of the Juvenile and Family Court Judge’s Association.   Ms. Clarke has been honored by numerous local and national organizations, and was named a “Champion for Change” in 2009 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and a national Youth Advocate by the National Juvenile Justice Network in 2013. You can contact Betsy at or (847) 864-1567.


Julia Sportolari, Director of Policy Education and Development

Prior to her work for JJI, Julia was a project director for Citizen Bridges International (CBI), a former nonprofit in Chicago that did international development through professional exchange programs with participants from emerging democracies around the world.  She developed and managed numerous programs for judges, lawyers, journalists, women’s rights activists and many others from countries such as Armenia, Ukraine, Kyryz Republic, Russia, Turkey and Egypt.  She also led delegations of Americans to Egypt, Morocco, Belize, Nicaragua and Turkey. Prior to CBI, Julia, an attorney, was the Director of Legal Affairs for the Public Building Commission of Chicago.  She also previously was the development director for First Defense Legal Aid and later served on its board where she was chair of the fundraising committee. You can contact Julia at or (773) 318-2963.