Cook County to create ‘community court’ in North Lawndale
Thursday, April 14, 2016
by Jordan Owen
A community court allowing young non-violent offenders to take accountability for their actions instead of serving jail time will open next year in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side, the Circuit Court of Cook County announced Thursday.
The Restorative Justice Community Court will hear nonviolent felony and misdemeanors cases involving adults between 18 and 26 years old who reside in North Lawndale and volunteer for the program, according to the county. It is expected to open in early 2017.
The “restorative justice” concept allows defendants to take accountability for their actions and work to repair any harm done through restitution, community service, letters of apology, and peace circles. Defendants who successfully complete the program will have charges dropped and the arrest expunged.
“The Community Court sends a message to the public that we are committed to resolving conflicts in our neighborhoods in a way that both helps nonviolent offenders take responsibility for their actions while also providing restitution and restoration to victims,” Chief Judge Timothy Evans said in the statement.
The court will be funded by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, according to the county. Cook County was one of 10 sites selected for a grant out of 70 jurisdictions applying.
The program is expected to serve about 100 defendants per year, according to the county. The grant covers a two-year period.