DOWNERS GROVE – Supporters of a plan to resume the Downers Grove Township peer jury are entering the new year with some optimism now that two township trustees have agreed to explore plans to resume the program.
Trustees Abby Ferguson and Dave Van Der Laan said at the Dec. 19 township Board of Trustees meeting that they will reach out during January to police chiefs, school officials, representatives from towns that run successful peer juries and the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“Our goal will be to look at this with fresh eyes,” Ferguson said.
The trustees hope to complete their discussions by the end of January, at which point they will meet members of the group that has supported continuation of the program, Ferguson said.
Supporters believe the trustees' decision is a good first step.
“Together we’re confident we can find a solution to reinstate this program,” Peg Chaldez said at the meeting.
Chaldez said the trustees’ decision is in response to extensive public support for peer jury.
"Since the discontinuation of the peer jury program, educators, parents, former peer jurors, police chiefs and community members have publicly shared support at township meetings, written correspondence to the trustees and posts on social media,” Chaldez said in an email. “The peer jury program has a 96-percent success rate and has helped hundreds of children, both as jurors and offenders. To not reinstate the program is doing a disservice to all communities.”
Mimi Raffenetti, a local librarian who has worked with the program since its inception, outlined the benefits of the program for trustees.
“I never met a young person who didn’t want to better their lives,” Raffenetti said. “The police were happy, the library was happy, the parents became better parents and the kids owned up to their mistake. They made restitution. What more could you ask of a volunteer organization like this?”
Fannie Moy, a vocal critic of the township for discontinuing the program, commended the board for agreeing to take another look.
“I commend you guys for taking an interest finally to understand how peer jury works,” Moy said.
Supporters have 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.
Organizers believe they’ll need $36,000 to resume the program. Offender fees and participating police departments would fund the programs in subsequent years, according to the proposal.