Chicago needs viable solutions for reducing youth violence while reducing admissions into juvenile court and detention. This can best be done when communities build capacity to resolve youth crime and conflict without relying on the use of costly confinement.
The concept of Restorative Justice Hubs (RJ Hubs) was developed to meet these important goals. The RJ Hub process does so by addressing three critical questions: 1) How can communities best support positive outcomes for court and gang-involved youth? 2) How can communities best share responsibility for neighborhood safety? and 3) How can our juvenile justice resources be most effectively reinvested in those communities where youth violence is most concentrated?
RJ Hubs are a community led restorative justice approach to youth crime and conflict. Our vision is that RJ Hubs are safe spaces in the community where youth are welcomed and supported in building healthy relationships, expressing themselves, addressing trauma, and developing necessary skills and competencies. Importantly, the RJ Hub model is directly informed by the latest science on childhood trauma. It is designed as a strategy for helping people to move beyond the effects of adverse childhood experiences, guiding them towards sustainable healing and growth.
The activities of the RJ Hubs are grounded in the following five pillars (or principles), which are essential in reducing youth violence and holistically supporting young people. They are:
- Radical Hospitality (providing a welcoming and hospitable place)
- Accompaniment (of youth in their journey)
- Building relationships with youth and family
- Relentless engagement of systems and stakeholders
- Learning community (collaboration and learning with other RJ Hubs)
The RJ Hubs will be guided by the Leadership Circle, a centralized supportive structure that coordinates existing hubs and ensures the successful launch of new RJ Hubs. The Leadership Circle is responsible for creating a replicable RJ Hub model, developing a manual and orientation guide, supporting a Learning Community, providing comprehensive training on trauma, Restorative Justice and peace circles, and establishing a documentation system that evaluates intervention and service provision throughout the RJ Hubs.
The Precious Blood Center in the Back of the Yards community, Urban Life Skills in Little Village, Lawndale Christian Legal Center in North Lawndale, Circles and Ciphers in Rogers Park, Alliance of Local Service Organization in Humboldt Park/Logan Square, Target Area DevCorp in Auburn Gresham and Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Kenwood/Oakland are examples of successful RJ Hubs. The leadership of the Restorative Justice hub collaborative also includes individuals from The Resource Section of Juvenile Justice and Child Protection, The Aftercare Program at the Department of Juvenile Justice, Community Justice for Youth Initiative and Adler University – Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice. In addition, the Leadership Circle is working with Woodlawn hub in Woodlawn neighborhood, an emerging RJ Hubs. We anticipate also working with other groups in communities with high rates of violence as well as capacity to do RJ work such as Woodlawn and South Shore.
The development of the RJ Hub model holds the promise of reducing violence in our communities and will uplift our youth to claim their full potential as irresistible forces for positive change. We believe our youths’ futures and the safety of the public depend on the implementation of Restorative Justice Hubs in communities throughout Chicago and Cook County. These RJ Hubs will serve as a powerful exemplar for other jurisdictions.