News

Released on 07/20/2017

The Circuit Court of Cook County is set to launch a new approach to address nonviolent crime with the opening of its first-ever Restorative Justice Community Court in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans announced today. 

“As a court system, we must work to end the cycle of recidivism. Our new Community Court empowers victims and residents to work as our partners to help restore nonviolent individuals back to society, provide restitution to victims, and improve our overall quality of life,” Chief Judge Evans said.  

Part of what makes the court so unique is that it is held outside of a traditional court setting, and participants sit at a table on the same level as the judge. 

The Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC) will serve the North Lawndale neighborhood, and court proceedings will convene at UCAN, 3605 W. Fillmore St., with Circuit Judge Colleen F. Sheehan presiding. The RJCC will operate once a week on Thursdays beginning August 31. 

The RJCC will apply restorative justice practices to emphasize the ways that crime harms relationships in the community and brings together the people most impacted by the crime to repair the harm. Under the model, defendants take accountability for their actions and then work out an agreement with the person harmed and the community that can focus on restitution, community service, and letters of apology. 

This approach helps reintegrate offenders back into the community by connecting them with services including mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, education, job training, and parenting classes. 

“Every human being in every community wants safety and a sense of belonging. This court helps provide structure and support so that the community of North Lawndale can bring that healing home,” Judge Sheehan said.  

For a case to be eligible for the court, the victim of the crime must agree to participate in the process. In addition, the person charged must:

 

  • Be 18 to 26
  • Have been charged with a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor
  • Live in North Lawndale
  • Have a nonviolent criminal history
  • Accept responsibility for the harm caused

 

The Community Court will resolve conflicts through restorative conferences and peace circles involving defendants, victims, family members, friends, others affected by the crime, and the community. Victims have the opportunity to directly address the defendant to express how they were hurt and what they need to heal from the crime. 

Judge Sheehan will make decisions on community-based sentences and treatment for the defendants. The Social Service Department, a community corrections agency which reports to Chief Judge Evans, will work with the RJCC on this initiative. Defendants who successfully complete the program may have the opportunity to have their charges dropped and arrests expunged. 

To help open the court, the Circuit Court of Cook County received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, administered by the New York-based Center for Court Innovation. Members of the community were extensively involved in the development and planning of the RJCC. Planning was guided by a steering committee that consisted of both community and government stakeholders. 

In its first year, the RJCC is expected to serve about 100 defendants. 

ABOUT UCAN 

UCAN is an innovative social service agency that has been a sanctuary for youth who have suffered trauma. Today, serving more than 11,600 youth and families, UCAN offers a full continuum of services to meet the critical needs of Chicagoland’s at-risk populations. Recognized as a leader in trauma-informed treatment, violence prevention, youth development and diversity and inclusion, UCAN's clinical approach to healing is united, culturally relevant and consistent. For more information, visit ucanchicago.org.  

 

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