Peer Jury

What is the Peer Jury Program?
It is a program built on the principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ). It is designed to provide a meaningful and remedial method of dealing with selected juveniles (under age 18) offenders without reference to the court system. It does not determine guilt or innocence. A case is only sent to the Peer Jury for hearing by a jury of trained high school student jurors and an adult moderator when (1) the offender admits having committed the offense; (2) the responsible police officer determines that such a disposition is appropriate; and (3) the offender and his/her parent or guardian consent in writing to such a disposition and sign a Waiver of Liability and Confidentiality.

When these conditions are met, the offender and his/her parent or guardians are scheduled for a hearing before a Peer Jury panel at a definite date and time. At the hearing, a police officer reads the charges and states the possible sentence if an adult committed the offense. The members of the panel then initially question the offender and then talk with his/her parent or guardian. The offender and his/her parent or guardians then withdraw while the jury deliberates and determines helpful and appropriate consequences. The assignment always includes some form of individualized community service.

Peer Jury Mission
The Downers Grove Township Peer Jury seeks to provide an opportunity for a youth offender to account for his/her behavior to a group of his/her peers and repair the harm caused to the victim and the community. Peer Jurors will attempt to understand why the offender committed the offense and then assign consequences to help him/her be accountable for his/her actions. When assigning consequences, the three goals of BARJ that are addressed when sentencing the offender are: Social Competency, Accountability, and Community Safety. In order to accomplish the above mission, peer jurors must have a good understanding of the facts of each case. To achieve this, jurors ask questions of the offender and his/her parents during the hearing of a case. Jurors ask appropriate questions so they may get a clear understanding of what occurred. A peer juror approaches each case seriously and in a professional manner. Prior to serving, a juror receives training from the Township’s director of the peer jury who administers the program. They also participate in a mock jury prior to being sworn in. The role of jurors is to question the offender and determine an appropriate “sentence.” Written outlines of procedures and suggested questions are provided in a training manual. Each peer juror must make a commitment to attend meetings and hearings on a regular basis and to maintain the confidentiality associated with the program. Jurors disqualify themselves from the jury if they know the offender. They are required to report any attempts to intimidate or influence them.

Juror Selection, Rules and Requirements

Appointment

  • Students who wish to apply obtain applications through their school, from current jurors, juvenile officers and from the township office.
  • An applicant must either live or go to school in the township. The Peer Jury director for the township must approve exceptions.
  • An applicant must be in high school or entering 9th grade in the fall upon application to an August training and not had any police contact within the past twelve months.
  • Peer Jurors must have a the following for a complete application packet: completed information form, written statement about the reason they are applying, signed permission form, completed recommendation forms from an adult. The Peer Jury director reviews all applications.
  • Applicants must attend a 30-minute interview, which is the final step before the selection process begins.
  • Upon selection, jurors must attend a mandatory one-day training. Trained jurors and a parent must attend an orientation and mock case session where a local judge will swear them in. Failure to attend will delay a juror beginning their tenure in the program.
  • Peer jurors are expected to attend hearings once per month at their assigned peer jury site. Peer Jurors must be at the site by 6:00 p.m. The peer jury sessions begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. and are usually over by 9:30 p.m.
  • Former offenders who express an interest in being a peer juror and have received a recommendation from the community service site they performed at may apply if they have remained out of trouble for at least six months after their release. Qualifying offenders are reviewed once a year by the juvenile officers from the eight referring police agencies to assure that they have had no police contact. If the officers clear them, they are contacted and offered the opportunity to apply and interview. They may participate in either the summer or winter training.

Hearing Locations & Times

  • The Peer Jury meets the 2nd Tuesday of the month in Darien City Hall
  • The 3rd Monday of the month in Downers Grove Village Hall
  • The 4th Monday of every month in the Westmont Police Department.

What are the typical offenses referred to a peer jury?
Assault, Battery, Burglary, Criminal Damage to Property, Criminal Trespass to Property, Curfew, Disorderly Conduct, Possession of Alcohol, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Tobacco, Truancy, (Third time offense only) Underage consumption of alcohol, Vandalism. This is not an all-inclusive or a required list. Each administrator for a peer jury, along with input from local law enforcement personnel decide which offenses will be eligible for referral to peer jury.

Peer Jury Application & Schedule

For information on how to be an adult or youth volunteer or if you want to know more about the peer jury program, please contact:

Lori Wrzesinski
Public Relations Director
Peer Jury Director
Phone: (630) 719-6689

 

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