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Juvenile Justice Bureau - Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

Balanced and restorative justice (BARJ) is a philosophy based on a set of principles that guide prosecutors as we try to balance the needs of the victim and the community with the needs of juvenile offenders. Restorative justice principles can guide responses to conflicts in many settings, not just those caused by a violation of law. The BARJ model was a concept developed in part by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in order to make the philosophy of restorative justice applicable to the modern U.S. justice system. BARJ uses restorative justice principles to balance the needs of three parties— offenders, victims, and the community.

The Juvenile Justice Bureau has embraced the principles of BARJ and the philosophy that justice is measured not by how much punishment is meted out. Rather, we believe justice is served by how much harm to the victim and community is repaired and how much accountability is instilled in, and competencies are developed in, the minor offender. The Bureau led the way in making BARJ the law in Illinois by amending the purpose and policy clause of Juvenile Court Act to include BARJ language. The bureau has spearheaded the process in which first-time or non-violent offenders are diverted from the court process into community-based restorative justice programs.

Bureau supervisors serve on many boards and committees to promote and foster a more effective Juvenile Justice Community. Some of those are: The BARJ Task Force; The City Wide Restorative Justice Committee; The Community Partnership Team; The Redeploy Illinois Board; The Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project Board; The Juvenile Sex Offender Management Board; The Court Culture Implementation Team; The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative; Girls Link, The Gun Violence Prevention Project; The Retail Theft Program and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. Juvenile Court prosecutors are increasingly trained in the latest community-based restorative programs so they can make effective screening decisions for first-time or non-violent offenders.

In 2007 the bureau led the way in promoting BARJ principles by collaborating on the first annual BARJ week. BARJ week is a week of education to spread public awareness of BARJ. It is also a week of celebrating the success of BARJ practices and principles by inviting public officials from Cook County to an awards reception at which we honor youth who have succeeded in restorative programs and restorative justice community partners who have made a huge difference with troubled youth. In 2008 we honored Father Dave Kelly and the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation for their outstanding work in bringing together youths of different gangs and backgrounds into healing peace circles and also for providing restorative- and competency-building after school-programs for youth. That year we also honored Robert Spicer and the Community Justice for Youth Institute. This year we honored Edith Crigler and the Chicago Area Project for their outstanding leadership in fostering peer juries and peace programs in many county schools. These programs result in the successful diversion of a significant number of youths from juvenile court into restorative peer and peace programs. We also honored Susan Garcia Trieschmann and the Evanston Restorative Justice Project (recently renamed Restorative Justice Evanston) for creating a thriving peer jury program at Evanston Township High School and a strong victim/offender conferencing program with the Evanston Police Department. Also, this year we enhanced BARJ week activities by demonstrating examples of restorative programs, culminating with peace circles in the courtrooms.

The bureau also played a major part in the creation of the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (JISC). The JISC is a pilot program involving several of the most high crime police districts in Chicago. Under the program, youth who are arrested for less serious offenses are taken to the JISC instead of to the police station. They are then carefully interviewed and screened in an effort to divert them from juvenile court and connect them with a community-based organization that can intervene and heal the issues that led to the arrest situation.

The role of a prosecutor in juvenile court is ever changing. Gone are the days when juvenile prosecutors were simply junior adult prosecutors. Prosecutors in the Juvenile Bureau are good trial lawyers who connect to the communities we serve. They need to be good trial lawyers for the cases assessed and tried in juvenile court, and they need to know what’s available in the community for the first-time and non-violent offenders who will be better served by diversion programs through probation and our community partners. The purpose and policy of Illinois law is to promote a juvenile justice system based upon Balanced And Restorative Justice.