The mission of the Community Justice for Youth Institute is to build community capacity to resolve youth violence and conflict, help survivors of violence heal, and support families impacted by violent crime through restorative justice training, technical assistance, and advocacy.

Core Values

  • Building strong community relationships as a means to keep communities safe. Quoting Grace Lee Boggs, “Putting the Neighbor Back in the Hood.”
  • Engaging communities in restorative practices to resolve conflicts involving youth, as an alternative to police and the school-to-jail pipeline
  • Advocating for youth to have access to resources and opportunities to reach their full potential…
  • Responding to youth crime by addressing the harm and meeting the needs of all involved; including the youth, those harmed and those causing harm


In 1997, two long-time child law attorneys on the faculty of Northwestern University School of Law Children and Family Justice Center, developed Community Panels for Youth. It was the first juvenile court diversion program in Chicago grounded in the principles and practices of Restorative Justice (RJ). With the support and guidance of Bernardine Dohrn, Lynn Cohn and many others, the attorneys expanded the program into eight Chicago communities. They eventually decided it was time to form an independent organization to focus their RJ work.  With the support of Northwestern, the Community Justice for Youth Institute (CJYI) was incorporated in October of 2003. CJYI became an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation in June of 2006 and installed its founding board of directors in February of 2007.

CJYI has worked to build RJ capacity in Chicago’s communities of color most impacted by poverty and violence. Staff advocate with and on behalf of youth, families and communities to address structural inequities in the education and justice systems.

CJYI has been instrumental in supporting the development of RJ Hubs, in seven communities throughout Chicago.  CJYI has also provided training and support for “Bridging the Divide,” a city-wide RJ initiative that works to build relationships and impact outcomes between police, youth and communities.

In effort to expand the reach of RJ, CJYI provides monthly peace circle keeper trainings, as well as monthly gatherings of trained circle keepers to provide a learning community of support and healing. Further, CJYI offers technical assistance in the implementation of restorative practices in schools, communities, and systems impacting young people’s health and well-being. The organization works in close collaboration with local and national restorative justice trainers.  Over the past four years, CJYI has collaborated with the National Education Association (NEA) and Advancement Project in D.C., to provide RJ training for schools and communities throughout the U.S.  Our RJ work in schools is grounded in the philosophy and practice of “Whole School RJ,” which engages and impacts everyone in the school building, as well as parents, school resources and the larger community. We have learned and collaborated with Dwanna Nicole and Dr. Kevin Gilbert, among others, who have been instrumental in implementing and guiding this model nationally.

CJYI staff have traveled throughout the U.S., Africa and Brazil to share community RJ models with NGO’s, juvenile justice professionals, schools, community and political leaders interested in implementing effective and sustainable community justice alternatives.


Office: (312) 842-5345

Mailing Address

P.O Box 9524

Chicago IL, 60609