Forging a New Path to Justice in Chicago’s Lawndale Community

At the time “Walter” was charged with possession of a controlled substance–a Class 4 felony in Illinois carrying a minimum penalty of one year of prison time—he actually had options. He could go down the typical path through the Illinois criminal justice system or walk down a new path through the nation’s first Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC), based in Chicago.

If determined guilty, the first path leads to a relatively short prison sentence with lasting repercussions.

Walter chose the RJCC path and graduated in 2018, free of drug addiction and full of potential for a career in the construction industry. RJCC is championed by We Raise Foundation grantee Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC), who firmly believes that the RJCC path has potential for a different outcome: one of hope and healing.

Thanks to We Raise donors, this grant funds mental health/addiction counseling, workforce development, and mentoring for program participants. To date, 11 people have graduated from RJCC by completing the stipulations of their Repair of Harm Agreements. During the RJCC’s first year, LCLC served 73 people, 90% of whom are engaged in the program and invested in living productive lives once they graduate.

The RJCC process includes peace circles with community members, the individual charged, surrogate victim(s), family members, and mentors. The process, which leads to a participant’s Repair of Harm Agreement, provides accountability for the accused and potential healing for participants, and often addresses issues that led up to the charges. Through their prayerful and financial support, We Raise donors have helped LCLC navigate this unique and groundbreaking alternative path to justice—and attract additional supporters (see sidebar).

Today Walter has a brighter future ahead of him, without the burden of a felony conviction, and remains grateful for his second chance. LCLC remains committed to their clients as they walk along this alternative path to justice. Through your commitment to We Raise Foundation, we can support the mission of LCLC. Thank you.

Lawndale Christian Legal Center Wins Prestigious Grant,
Credits We Raise Foundation

In early 2019, LCLC received a seed grant award from My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), a charitable arm of the Obama Foundation, for its commitment to raise up young men of color, restore them from trauma, empower them to lead, and stand apart from the criminal justice system. LCLC Executive Director Cliff Nellis credits We Raise Foundation’s role as an early funder for the RJCC and LCLC’s accompanying program as critical in their progress—and essential to LCLC’s ability to secure larger grants from other investors. The MBK grant will help LCLC expand their holistic legal services to serve an additional 120 boys and young men in the Lawndale community. Because of you, LCLC expanded their staff, moved into a larger space, and is now attracting seven-figure investments from other funders. Thank you.

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