Invest in People: Fund Restorative Justice

The following testimony was given by Jack Jackson at the Southside Cook County Public Budget Hearing on October 28, 2015 in support of the Reclaim Campaign’s ask for Cook County Commissioners to increase funding for community-based Restorative Justice from $500,000 to $2 million in the FY2016 budget.

Good evening.  My name is Jack Johnson.  I am a member of Trinity United Church of Christ and a supporter of the Community Renewal Society and the Reclaim Campaign.  I am here today because I believe it is time for Cook County to make a serious investment in Restorative Justice.

When I was growing up, there was no such thing as Restorative Justice.  My juvenile acting out resulted in disciplinary procedures.  There was no inquiry into why I did what I did, or what could be done to change my behavior.  I was usually expelled from school.  Later, my adult misdeeds ended with my being sentenced to prison.  Much later, I tried to turn my life around, but my record dogged me every step of the way.  I believe that had something like Restorative Justice been around, I would not have gone down the path I traveled.

When a person enters prison, I believe we have lost them.  Life is tough enough, and when we add a criminal conviction and prison sentence to the mix, the road back becomes nearly impossible.  The end result is that we are creating a class of people who are unemployable or, at best, under-employable.  This road needs to end and programs like Restorative Justice are vital if we are to save people like me.

I believe we can all agree that it costs more to keep a person in prison than it does to educate them.  I would like to think that everyone here believes it would be better to identify and re-direct potential criminals than to waste valuable resources arresting and incarcerating them over and over again.  Currently, we earmark millions to keeping a person in prison, which everyone agrees does little to reduce crime or rehabilitate criminals.  By investing in Restorative Justice we would be addressing the root causes of misbehavior and finding solutions, rather than relying on the criminal justice system, which we know doesn’t concern itself with solutions.  By investing in Restorative Justice, we would be salvaging persons who are making bad decisions and assisting them on the road to productive citizenship.

By investing in Restorative Justice we would be making better use of tax payers’ money.  Rather than pouring funds into a failing system, we would be investing in our most valuable resource, people.  And, as a member of a faith-based institution, I believe in forgiveness and restoration.  I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, expects us to reach down and help our fellow man, rather than consign him to the trash pile.

Finally, Commissioners, by making a real investment in Restorative Justice, this commission would be proactive rather than reactive in the fight against crime and violence. Therefore, I implore you to support an amendment to the President’s Budget Proposal to increase funding for community-based Restorative Justice to $2 million in 2016.

Thank you.


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