A new program focused on rehabilitation instead of punishment for people accused of non-violent crimes held its first graduation ceremony June 29.
A total of 29 people graduated from Cook County’s Restorative Justice Program in Englewood. County leaders say the program lasts an average of six to nine months and focuses on education, accountability and job training designed to address non-violent crime and prevent recidivism.
“We’re here to celebrate your graduation, but we’re also here to let you know we value you. We know the trauma that you had to overcome in order to step into this room today, we know that you had to stand direct and acknowledge what you did and repair the harm of what you did and you did that,” said Timothy Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Those who go through community court are expected to apologize for their crimes and complete community service.
To be eligible, a defendant must be 18 to 26 years old, have been charged with a non-violent felony or misdemeanor, and have a non-violent criminal history. Defendants who successfully complete the program may also have their charges dropped and records expunged.