CALUMET CITY | A group that promotes the concept of “restorative justice” — finding alternatives to incarceration for criminal behavior — is sponsoring an event Friday and Saturday at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic parish.
The church at 768 Lincoln Ave. will be the site of a Community Café, a forum in which participants break up into small groups to have informal discussions about issues of concern in the community.
Sara Balgoyen, executive director of the Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project, said the group has had similar forums during the past two years at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, at Governors State University in University Park and at the public libraries in Homewood and Flossmoor.
The forums at St. Andrew Church are a part of the group’s Stone Soup Project and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and again from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. People wanting to participate can contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graduate assistants at Governors State University are helping to coordinate the Calumet City community event.
“We seek change, and we come in peace to discuss the issues in our community,” said criminal justice student Shaniqua Jones.
Under restorative justice, people work with the courts to resolve would-be criminal cases without offenders having to be placed in the court system.
Balgoyen said she thinks the concept works best with juvenile cases if it can keep young people from getting caught up in the legal process.
“All too often, if they get into the system, they never get out,” she said.
Restorative justice often entails a person who committed an improper act to provide some sort of community service, make restitution for their behavior and write formal letters of apology. It involves having the person accused of an improper act to work with the victim to reach a resolution, Balgoyen said.
“We’re trying to promote restorative justice to provide additional opportunities,” she said. “Our goal is to create a discussion that results in a safer environment in Calumet City and in other communities.”