For safety with the SAFE-T Act, there has to be a support system

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That creates structure. And structure creates safety.

Because we’re serious about safety for all, we will provide these services to individuals who want them after they are arrested and presumed innocent while they await trial.

I understand if you’re skeptical. Maybe you already disagree. I grew up in Lake Zurich and didn’t understand the power of social supports until I moved to the West Side in 2010 to raise a family and open a legal center. These services can heal the emotional and physical trauma of living with violence.

Now there is more violence in neighborhoods that historically haven’t experienced shootings, robberies and carjackings. And many more people unfortunately know this trauma and need healing from harm.

What do we do?

We use holistic social support as a model. Several Chicago violence-intervention groups learned from us to build their own models for adults and juveniles who need positive intervention. We’re a law office, but we spend three-fourths of our budget on supportive services.

Last year, we received a $2.9 million boost from The Bail Project, a national nonprofit, to merge its Community Release with Support model with our strategies. As a result, we’re inside Cook County Jail every weekday to interview detainees to identify the services they need should the judge grant their release. We know many people need this structure to be successful, and the pretrial population responds best when those services are provided by and in the communities where they live.

We’ve also partnered with the system, working with the Cook County Circuit Court on the first Restorative Justice Community Court and the Chicago Police Department on limited legal representation for juveniles in custody at Area One.

We take a lot of pride in being community-based, and our vision of Chicago is one that supports people so they can support themselves. That’s a safer city. That’s a stronger city. And we’re already playing our part to help ensure the successful rollout of the SAFE-T Act.

It sounds strange that a criminal defense law office says its work is violence prevention. But we guide our clients away from guns and drug sales every day.

And our doors are open to anybody who wants to meet with our successful clients, some who now run their own businesses. Supportive services not only change individual lives, they make us all safer.

Cliff Nellis is executive director of the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, a nonprofit that provides social and legal support for individuals awaiting trial.

Ino Saves New

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October 28, 2022 at 07:46PM

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