Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $200,000)
Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC) is committed to creating a new justice system, based on restorative justice principles, to eliminate the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, and to narrow the gap in disparate treatment based on race and socioeconomic status. Our replicable model is a community-based, holistic team of Attorneys, Case Managers, Outreach Workers, and Circle Keepers working with local Community Partners to prevent Black and Brown youth’s contact with the criminal justice system. By focusing on youth, we are disrupting the flow of Black and Brown youth into the adult criminal system, preventing the lifelong entanglement, criminal records, and incarceration that Black and Brown people suffer today. In 2021, for example, instead of going to jail or deepening their connection with the criminal justice system, 72% of our Black and Brown youth progressed in their educational and employment goals by earning a high school diploma or GED, obtaining employment, completing a trade certification, or completing hard or soft skill training.
Our holistic, community-based model of restorative justice reduces Black and Brown youth’s contact with the system while simultaneously increasing their access to social services, education, and employment. LCLC is expanding evidence base for system change by leading the first Randomized Control Trial (RCT) evaluation in the nation of our model of restorative justice with the University of Chicago. Through this RCT, 330 youth will receive LCLC’s restorative justice model of services and 330 youth will be served by the Cook County Public Defender’s office. This study will expand the evidence that our model produces superior social and legal outcomes for Black and Brown youth, which we will use to advance system change. In addition, through our “Justice Rising” mass media campaign, we are sharing the success stories of our youth to change the public mindset and narrative on criminal justice. Our campaign is designed to raise awareness and support for keeping Black and Brown youth in their community with supports that lead toward education, employment, stronger communities, and greater public safety for all.
Our bottom-up solution will divert more first-time and/or lower-level youthful offenders from the criminal justice system. Through our partnership with the Mayor’s office, we are diverting youth from the police station to community-based services. Through our Restorative Justice Community Courts, we are working with the Chief Judge to divert youth from prosecution to community-based services. Through our healing practices and Illinois’ new Restorative Justice Privilege bill, we are resolving young people’s first brush with the legal system through healing practices in the community, instead of through the courts. Finally, through our RCT evaluation, we are proving that this model not only diverts Black and Brown youth from the criminal justice system, it produces far superior social and legal outcomes that strengthens our communities and increases public safety for everyone.