This Chicago neighborhood has an alternative to jail

Cliff Nellis, a respected Chicago lawyer, is taking a different approach to justice – asking victims to sit down with their attacker, and talk, face to face. It is an approach called restorative justice, which relies on community, and not incarceration, to fight violence and crime.

Restorative justice centers around the idea that young people need the embrace of a community and conflict resolution, to thrive; that, for many crimes, justice can be about repairing harm more than meting out punishment. After the meeting, victims can decide if they want to press charges.

Nellis is now the Executive Director of the Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC), which provides free legal services to members of the community, including restorative justice groups and the support of mental health and job training professionals. And it’s working: 89% of the kids and young adults Nellis has worked with have not returned to crime.

LCLC is a graduate of Stand Together Foundation’s Catalyst Program, where they received the guidance and capital needed to grow their approach to making North Lawndale a better place.