ENGLEWOOD — Two years after opening in North Lawndale, an experimental program that aims to help young offenders get their lives back on track will expand to Englewood in January.
The Restorative Justice Community Court, launched in North Lawndale by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2017, aims to cut recidivism by helping people with a history of nonviolent offenses make victims whole, providing restitution to them while working to improve themselves and their communities.
The exact date the Englewood court will open has yet to be determined, but it will function under the same rules as the Lawndale location: Offenders must be 18-26 years old, live in Englewood, be charged with a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor, have a nonviolent criminal history and accept responsibility for harm they caused.
Victims and offenders will meet in a peace circle, where they will create a “repair of harm agreement,” outlining what the offenders must do to make restitutions. The offenders’ records are expunged upon completion.
Offenders will also have access to services and programs that will assist with education, mental health counseling and job placement.
Chief Judge Timothy Evans, speaking during a September panel on restorative justice practices at Oak Park’s Grace Lutheran Church, said the court is looking to expand the program to other Chicago neighborhoods, like Avondale and Logan Square, according to the Austin Weekly News.
Cook County’s Restorative Justice Community Court is modeled after New York’s Red Hook Community Justice Center, which opened in 2000 as the country’s first multi-jurisdictional court.
Court will be in session once a week at the Salvation Army’s Adele and Robert Stern Red Shield Center, 845 W. 69th St., with Judge Donna L. Cooper presiding.
Cooper has been a judge on the Cook County’s 1st Subcircuit Court since 2008, winning reelection in 2014.
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