SOCIAL SERVICE DEPARTMENT
The Social Service Department serves the Circuit Court of Cook County by providing post-dispositional correctional casework services to approximately 24,000 individuals placed on supervision or found guilty of felony, misdemeanor, traffic, and ordinance offenses each year. The court crafts orders of supervision and conditional discharge with specific sanctions and conditions the offender must follow to successfully complete the dispositional requirements of the criminal/traffic case. The Social Service Department develops and implements an individualized supervision plan for each offender and through a process of strategic interventions, guides and monitors the offender while he or she remains under the court's jurisdiction.
The Social Service Department can trace its development from a staff of one "social secretary" in 1911 to what has evolved into a department of more than 200 employees. The department services 13 court locations, eight of which are in Chicago (District One) and one each in the suburban court facilities in Skokie (District Two), Rolling Meadows (District Three), Maywood (District Four), Bridgeview (District Five), and Markham (District Six).
The Social Service Department uses evidence-based practices to manage its offender population. This strategy begins with a comprehensive assessment that matches the offender’s criminogenic needs with the requisite programmatic intervention. Other components include enhancing offender motivation while being responsive to the offender’s temperament, learning style, motivation, gender, and culture when assigning to programs within the department and community. Other evidence-based principles include increasing positive reinforcements, engaging support for offenders in their communities, and measuring the success of the department’s programs through social science research.
The Social Service Department operates specialized programs designed for offenders convicted of crimes involving domestic violence, family violence, and driving under the influence (DUI), with specialized programming for women and misdemeanor offenses.
Another sanction the court may make use of is the Community Service Program, in which the department works with hundreds of not-for-profit agencies to provide a means whereby offenders can repay their debt to society through public service. Annually, offenders placed in this program perform over 350,000 hours of community service. This represents $2,275,000 of service at minimum wage.