Restorative Justice Project

Letter to Hon. J.B. Pritzker
2020 Letter to Governor J.B. Pritzker – CLICK TO READ

The Catholic Lawyers Guild’s Restorative Justice Project had its inception in a suggestion from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich. Not long after he arrived in Chicago, in February of 2015 Cardinal Cupich came to the Guild’s annual Day of Recollection to celebrate Mass and join in discussion with members of the Guild. In the course of that conversation, he urged the Guild to provide assistance to the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago. Founded by members of the Precious Blood religious community, this Ministry sought to serve “as agents of reconciliation and healing with those in our community and our Church who have been impacted by violence and conflict.” Under the leadership of Father David Kelly, the Ministry utilized “Peace Circles” to bring together victims and those accused of crime to engage in dialogue. This process was part of a growing national movement known as the Restorative Justice Project.

In the summer of 2015, Matthew Simon, then President of the Guild, the Guild’s two vice-presidents, Judge Tom Donnelly and Dan Murray, and several other members of the Guild visited the Precious Blood Center. They were overwhelmed by the wonderful work that the Center was doing in providing healing to a community plagued by too much violence. Thereupon, the Executive Committee of the Guild decided to form a new committee of the Guild, the Restorative Justice Committee, on which Matthew Simon, Tom Donnelly and Dan Murray agreed to serve, to emphasize the importance this committee’s work would occupy for the Guild.

The Restorative Justice Committee quickly considered how it could best play a supportive role on behalf of the Center. Early on, the Committee learned that a major obstacle to honest and effective dialogue within the Peace Circles was the not unexpected fear of defense counsel that their clients, in the course of dialogue within the Peace Circle, would make admissions that could be used against them in court proceedings. So the Committee took upon itself the task of drafting a rule providing an evidentiary privilege for communications made in the course of these Peace Circles. A subcommittee was formed, including a religiously diverse group of judges and lawyers, under the leadership of Judge Stuart Katz, to prepare the text of a proposed legislation.

On January 28, 2020, Rep. Will Guzzardi. (D-Chicago) 39th District introduced HB 4295 Privilege For Restorative Justice Practices in the Illinois House of Representatives. On July 20, 2020, the Secretary of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, Representative Carol Ammons (D-Champaign) 103rd District, stepped up to become the chief sponsor. Momentum continues to build.

Learn more about the bill:

HB 4295 – Privelege for Restorative Justice Practices
Sponsors: Rep. Carol Ammons, Rep. Will Guzzardi

What the Bill Does:
Removing barriers to participation in Restorative Justice practices by establishing a limited privilege, similar to that used in mediation, to make communications inadmissible in later court proceedings.

The Issue:

  • Restorative Justice practices bring together parties who have caused harm and been harmed, along with community stakeholders to strengthen communities by addressing trauma and repairing harm.
  • Restorative Justice is increasingly being used in schools, communities, and by the courts, including the Restorative Justice Community Courts in Cook County. It’s also possible for Restorative Justice practitioners to continue running circles via video conference technology and some organizations have released guidelines for how to do so safely.
  • For a restorative justice proceeding to be successful, parties must engage in open and honest dialogue, revealing sensitive information. The risk of disclosing information that could later be used against a participant in court is a barrier to participation for many people who could benefit from restorative justice.

Why This Bill Is Necessary:

  • This bill will make things said or done in a restorative justice practice confidential and inadmissible in later court proceedings. Similar to the attorney-client privilege, disclosure is allowed when necessary to prevent harm or a crime, and for mandated reporters.
  • Judges would ultimately provide oversight to ensure the legitimacy of a restorative justice practice – ensuring that the practice is not used for coercive or prohibited purposes.
  • The proposal is similar to current confidentiality protections in mediation proceedings.
  • By ensuring that participants will not be penalized in court for participating in restorative justice practices, this bill will encourage the expanded use of restorative justice and allow Illinois to continue to be a leader in restorative justice.
  • Evidence that is otherwise admissible in court or subject to discovery would not become inadmissible solely because it was discussed in a restorative justice practice.
  • Participants of a restorative justice practice would not be prevented from disclosing information learned in a practice to law enforcement. This only limits the State from using things said or done by an individual in preparation for, during, or as a follow-up to a restorative justice practice as evidence.

Supporters Include:

Individual Supporters
Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle
Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart
Sister Cathy Ryan, Maryville Academy
Fr. Larry Dowling, St. Agatha’s Church, Chicago

Bar Associations/Legal Orgs
Illinois State Bar Association
Cook County Bar Association
Chicago Bar Association
Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender
Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago
Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
John Marshall Law School Restorative Justice Project
Adler University
Institute for Public Safety and Social Justice

Advocacy Organizations
Catholic Conference of Illinois
Catholic Theological Union
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Chicago Urban League
Juvenile Justice Initiative
Restore Justice
League of Women Voters of Illinois
Illinois Justice Project
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Illinois Parent Teacher Association
Chicago Votes
Mother’s Against Wrongful Convictions

Service Providers
YMCA of Illinois
Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities
The James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy (Evanston)
Community Renewal Society (Chicago)

Restorative Justice Practitioners
Lawndale Christian Legal Center (Chicago)
ALSO-Chicago (Humboldt Park, Chicago)
Target Area DevCorp (Auburn Gresham, Chicago)
BUILD Chicago (West Garfield Park, Chicago)
Community Renewal Society (Chicago)
Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (Chicago)
New Life Centers of Chicagoland (Chicago)
Nehemian Trinity Rising (Beverly, Chicago)
Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice (Champaign, IL
The Center for Empowerment and Justice (Carbondale)
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (Back of the Yards, Chicago)
Prevent School Violence (Chicago)
Conflict 180

Restorative Justice Programs

Additionally, the Guild’s Restorative Justice Committee has turned its attention to establishing Restorative Justice programs on a pilot basis in several inner-city Catholic schools near the Precious Blood Center in the Back of the Yards. With the assistance of Father Dave Kelly of the Precious Blood Ministry and a Chicago Bar Association Committee chaired by retired Judges Tom Hogan and Sheila Murphy, these programs are now up and running in two nearby schools, St. Leo High School and St. Sabina Elementary School, and is soon to start in a third neighborhood Catholic school. Preliminary results are highly encouraging.

The Guild’s Restorative Justice Committee has become a signature initiative of the Guild as part of the broader work of the Church to counter conflict and violence in our community with dialogue and love.