President Preckwinkle and Commissioner Garcia announce new $500,000 fund for restorative justice

Toni Preckwinkle
Toni Preckwinkle

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia visited the offices of the Woodlawn Restorative Justice Hub a project of Southside Together Organizing for Power’s on Wednesday morning. The visit was to announce her new $500,000 investment in restorative justice organizations.

Preckwinkle committed to the Reclaim Campaign, which includes STOP and the Community Renewal Society, last year to support restorative justice as an alternative to incarceration and a strategy to stop the violence. The $500,000 will be released as grants which organizations will be eligible to apply for later this month.

“Through our Justice Advisory Council, we invest in locally based initiatives that emphasize restorative justice, recidivism reduction and violence prevention,” said Preckwinkle. “I view the programs we support as key components in the network of services we are building to reach everyone who experiences violence, whether they are characterized as victims or offenders.”

Darrius Lightfoot, a youth organizer with Fearless Leading by the Youth and a participant in the Woodlawn Restorative Justice Hub, says “the Restorative Justice Hub has engaged street involved youth to give them an alternative path, to engage them as peacemakers. This work is real, we have young people helping to mediate a street conflict going on right now. Restorative Justice Hubs invest in long term relationships to provide peace circles, mentorship, jobs and other services that people caught up in the streets need.”

Father Larry Dowling, the priest of St. Agatha’s Parish in North Lawndale and a member of the Community Renewal Society, says that “building the community’s restorative justice capacity has been key to stopping countless conflicts from escalating, we building the capacity of our community to be peacemakers.”

This event was organized by the Reclaim Campaign a coalition which includes the Community Renewal Society, Southside Together Organizing for Power / Fearless Leading by the Youth, and the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

In related news during August volunteers from the Reclaim Campaign will attend Cook County Central Bond Court at 2600 S. California every day from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. to recording the outcome of every case that is heard in bond court during their shift. To goal of this court watch program is to ensure reforms promised by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to bond court and pre-trial services are actually being implemented.

About 100 people appear in Cook County Bond Court on any given day of the week. Taxpayers pay an average of $143 per day per detainee kept in jail, which totals to over $500 million per year, according to data from Reclaim. And about 43 percent of drug cases are dismissed at preliminary hearings, according to Reclaim.

The Reclaim Campaign is expected to host a meeting on Sept. 10 where the results of their court-watching project will be released to the public.

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