Restorative Justice Community Court profiled in The Atlantic

Chicago Appleseed’s senior criminal justice policy analyst Sharlyn Grace was quoted in a story that came out today in The Atlantic, “Should Communities Have a Say in How Residents Are Punished for Crime?

A Cook County Courtroom (via The Atlantic)

Chicago Appleseed is proud to play a role in designing and implementing Cook County’s first Restorative Justice Community Court. Our former Senior Criminal Justice Policy Analyst, Ali Abid, served as a member of the Executive Coordination Team and as the Interim Coordinator for the first 6 months of the court’s planning period. Currently, Appleseed staffer Sharlyn Grace serves as part of the Restorative Justice and Case Management Working Group for the court, helping a team of court system workers and community members design the process that defendants will go through once they enter the court. Like the Adult Redeploy Illinois Access to Community Treatment Court that Appleseed helped design, the RJCC seeks to divert people from ineffective and punitive responses into more effective and compassionate alternatives.

“‘The criminal-justice system for years has been doing the opposite of generating further investment in the community by removing people who have caused harm … and meting out punishment that is often unrelated to the needs and desires of the person who was harmed,’ said Sharlyn Grace, an attorney at the advocacy group Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and a member of one of the new court’s working groups. ‘Given all of that, trying to create a restorative-justice process that operates with fidelity inside the traditional criminal courts is a really challenging and important effort.'”

The RJCC is a unique joint project of the criminal justice system and community members, with both sectors having equal representation in meetings and in equal say in decision-making. Primary authority for development of the project rests with The Office of the Chief Judge and Lawndale Christian Legal Center. Judge Colleen F. Sheehan provided the original vision for the court and has continued to offer tremendous leadership in the court’s development. She will also preside over the RJCC once it opens.  The Center for Court Innovation is also involved as the grant administrator and providing technical assistance to the RJCC’s development team.