DOWNERS GROVE – A group working to resume the peer jury program in Downers Grove Township is weighing its options after the township signaled it is not interested in resurrecting the program.
The group's proposal called for continuation of the peer jury program under the township umbrella but without township funds. The township discontinued the 17-year-old program earlier this year citing funding cutbacks.
Supporters of the program have been critical of Township Supervisor Mark Thoman for ending the program without a vote from the township board. Thoman acknowledges the criticism.
“Yes, there's been criticism for making a very difficult decision,” Thoman said. “I’ve made more than a few difficult decisions as township supervisor this year, and here’s what I know: It never gets easier.”
The group had hoped the township would consider a special revenue fund proposal for the continued operation of peer jury, but Thoman raised doubts about that plan in an email to area police chiefs from towns that participated in the original program.
Supporters obtained the email via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Thoman said the proposal raised "more questions than answers." He added the plan lacks safeguards against financial shortfalls and liability, does not incorporate law enforcement authority and offers no participant recourse, among other issues.
Supporters plan to discuss their strategy over the next several days, which may include submitting to the township board their proposal for a privately funded peer jury program.
The plan was put on hold when supporters learned of Thoman's email to area police chiefs.
Supporters also want to have a discussion of peer jury placed on the agenda for the Dec. 7 township board meeting. The matter was not on the Nov. 21 meeting agenda, although peer jury supporters did attend the meeting.
Supporters also are considering meeting with township trustees and area police chiefs individually before the township board meeting to discuss the issue, they said.
Organizing former peer jurors and their families to help campaign for the restoration of the program including a push on social media also may be considered, supporters said.
Supporters of the alternative plan said increased offender fees and one-time community contributions would have funded the program in the first year. So far, they had received $6,000 in pledges for first-year operations, according to an email from supporters.
Organizers believe they’ll need $36,000 to start the program. Offender fees and participating police departments would fund the programs in subsequent years, according to the proposal.