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Before she retired as Mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl appointed a committee of aldermen and residents to come up with strategies to keep youth who come into contact with law enforcement officials as far away from the criminal justice system as possible. The committee members took this charge seriously, perhaps in part because many of them were looking at this issue either because of their profession or from a concern about the future of struggling and at-risk youth in this community.
Progress is being made incrementally. The committee first looked at expungement, with the goal to have all juvenile arrests that did not result in conviction automatically expunged once the teen becomes 18 years old.
Committee members have already begun work on the next task – diverting as many offenses as possible from the Skokie court house to the City’s administrative adjudication process. The good news is that the Evanston Police Department is already doing this, sending offenders to the Skokie court house only when the incident involves more than one offense – two state crimes, two ordinance violations, as examples.
The committee has researched how other jurisdictions handle this and are considering restorative justice and youth jobs as well as the necessity of reforming or revamping State laws and City ordinance.
With the unrest, anger and suspicion surrounding many of the activities at the City – not to mention in this country – City Council needed a win. They have one – and likely the first of many – in the work of the Alternatives to Arrest Committee.