Restorative Justice Community Courts

Restorative Justice Community Courts are aimed at young adults, aged 18-26, charged with non-violent felony or misdemeanor crimes. Part of the court’s mission is to end the harmful cycle of revenge and recidivism. The courts resolve conflict through restorative conferences and peace circles involving participants, victims, family members, friends, others affected by the crime, and the community.

The purpose of the circle process is to ultimately reach an agreement between the participant and members of the community called a Repair of Harm Agreement, in which the participant agrees to complete certain tasks, such as perform community service, write a letter of reflect to a loved one, undergo substance abuse treatment, and other tasks. The Repair of Harm Agreement is a contract between the participant and the community. If the participant successfully completes all the tasks set out in the agreement, his or her case will be dismissed, the offense expunged, and the participant will be invited to attend a graduation ceremony celebrating this milestone in his or her life.

Victims are not required to participate. But if they choose, they may directly address the participant to express how they were hurt and what they need to heal from the crime.

Scientific research has shown that the brains of young adults are still emerging, and that the portion of the brain responsible for good judgment isn’t fully developed until the age of 26. Restorative Justice Community Courts give young adults a second chance to keep their records clean and get their lives back on track. Defendants who successfully complete the program may have the opportunity to have their charges dismissed and arrest and court records expunged. 

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, work or worship in one of the neighborhoods which has a community court  
  • Have a nonviolent criminal history  
  • Accept responsibility for the harm caused  

The first Restorative Justice Community Court in Cook County started in North Lawndale on Chicago’s West Side in 2017. Two more courts started in Avondale on the Northwest Side and Englewood on the South Side in 2020.  

As resources permit, the court plans to establish RJCC in other areas of the county.   

For additional information, please contact the Office of the Chief Judge at OCJ.chief@cookcountyil.gov


Restorative Justice Community Courts Booklet
Restorative Justice Community Courts Brochure
The Avondale Restorative Justice Community Court Newsletter Summer 2021

Copyright 2020 by Circuit Court of Cook County