Chicago’s North Lawndale Restorative Justice Community Court Receives Visitors from the Union League’s Administration of Justice Subcommittee

On June 14, 2018, the Union League of Chicago’s Public Affairs Committee’s Administration of Justice Subcommittee, chaired by Kreisman Law Offices’ principal Robert D. Kreisman, visited the Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC), a criminal court in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.

Members of the committee observed a court session and met with RJCC Judge Colleen Sheehan. They discussed how this alternative court gives youth ages 18 to 26 in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago who are charged with non-violent offenses an opportunity to turn their lives around through this program.

The restorative justice idea is to not just punish those who have committed a crime and are convicted. The idea is restore these individuals to a way of life that can be productive for the community in which they reside, in this case the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago.  Education, job training, resume development and drug treatment are avenues available to those who agree to pass through this system.

Unlike most criminal courts, the RJCC practices “restorative justice,” which means it empowers the community to create solutions to repair the harm caused by crime and conflict.

This program includes what are often referred to as “peace circles.” In that setting, a social worker, a victim where there is one, or a community support person, along with the alleged offender, sit together on chairs organized in a circle to discuss alternatives to remedying the offense. There are speaking objects in the middle of the circle that are used by participants to hold as they speak.

The system is an alternative to adult prosecutions that take place at Chicago’s Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California streets. Because of the age group, these young adults are isolated from the juvenile court detention system and thus thrust into the adult’s criminal courts, which is a very poor alternative. This Community Court is a pilot program that by all accounts has been extremely successful.

The Union League Club of Chicago was founded on the principles of commitment to community and country. This program and the Union League Club’s interest in learning about this alternative process and in helping in any way possible may be a way to fulfill in some small way the commitment to community.

Robert Kreisman and Kreisman Law Offices have been handling catastrophic injury lawsuits, civil jury trials, business litigation and probate and guardianship litigation for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bensenville, Rolling Meadows, Antioch, Bellwood, Calumet City, Deerfield, Evanston, Franklin Park, Gurnee, Highland Park, Chicago (Jefferson Park, Belmont Cragin, North Lawndale, Englewood, Back of the Yards, Pilsen, Wrigleyville, UIC, Hyde Park, Beverly, Roscoe Village, Pullman), Northbrook, Buffalo Grove, Zion, Elgin, Joliet, St. Charles, Naperville and Bridgeview, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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