Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC)’s program with Get IN Chicago provides integrated mentoring and legal representation for court-involved youth, ages 13-18, in North Lawndale. LCLC seeks to work with acutely high-risk youth in the North Lawndale community. In addition to being involved with the criminal justice system and at-risk of violence, these youth are often disconnected from school and their community and lack strong supportive networks.

Youth participants in the LCLC program receive the services of both a mentor and an attorney, who work in tandem to provide integrated legal and social support. Research from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) shows that wraparound services such as intensive case management are effective in rehabilitating young offenders, reducing their likelihood of crime and incarceration. The LCLC program addresses the complex needs of court-involved youth in a holistic way – decreasing risk factors, increasing protective factors for violence, reducing recidivism rates, and building positive community relationships.

To date, LCLC’s program has been successful at reducing recidivism and increasing school enrollment of justice-involved youth.

Between February 1, 2016 and January 31, 2017, the program reported the following outcomes:

  • 82% of youth successfully complied with probation, supervision, or parole during the program year.
  • 84% of youth were enrolled and attending school and meeting grade requirements to be promoted at the end of the school year. Three youth received their diploma or GED during the grant year, and two more are on track to receive their diploma in June 2017.
  • 44% of youth participated in a job training program or obtained part-time employment.
  • 75% of youth, as measured by the ‘Attitude Toward Interpersonal Peer Violence’ Survey, reported a decrease in attitudes toward violence over the program year

In addition to their Get IN Chicago program, LCLC is the coordinating organization for the North Lawndale Community Restorative Justice Hub, a 28-member coalition of community organizations and stakeholders. Mentors and case managers participate in monthly RJ Hub meetings to stay informed of additional resources and services available to meet the needs of their youth and families.

LCLC calls their approach “holistic legal services”, and they offer legal representation, social services, mentoring, and advocacy to walk youth through – and away from – the criminal justice system.

 

Success Story:

Due to the diligent efforts of LCLC lawyers and pro bono attorney volunteers from Schiff Hardin LLP, a mentoring participant – ‘Dashawn’ (not his real name) – was able to petition for trial in juvenile rather than adult court.

Two and a half years ago, Dashawn was charged with armed robbery.  At the time, armed robbery cases charged against 15 year olds were required to be tried in adult court. Dashawn was therefore held on a $500,000 bond and faced between 21 and 45 years in prison.

Thankfully, this law changed in January 2016. However, the new law would not apply to cases like Dashawn’s, which had occurred before the law was passed but were still pending in court. This change left about 100 children, including Dashawn, in limbo.

The LCLC and Schiff Hardin legal teams provided invaluable assistance, writing a number of briefs that we presented to Dashawn’s judge to prove that the law should be applied in his case. Those briefs were also circulated widely in the defense community and eventually formed the backbone of a case on this issue that went before the Illinois Supreme Court in November.

The Illinois Supreme Court wrote a clear, strong opinion agreeing with our position. Within three hours of the ruling being released, the LCLC staff went to court to advocate for Dashawn’s transfer.  He was the first youth transferred back to juvenile court under the new ruling. He was subsequently released on electronic monitoring while his case is pending in juvenile court.

Dashawn walked out of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center for the first time in two and a half years in time to spend Christmas with his family. After that point, LCLC’s Get IN Chicago Mentor/Case Manager continued to meet with Dashawn weekly, establishing a trusting and supportive relationship and preparing him for the changes in store for him as he reentered the community and his family. The Mentor/Case Manager also assisted him to enroll in high school, and he is on track to graduate this June.