Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and Juvenile Justice Division Presiding Judge Michael P. Toomin today announced that the juvenile court has partnered with several bar organizations to launch a new program in which male attorneys volunteer to commit to a one year mentoring relationship with non-violent male probationers.
Bar associations participating in the Juvenile Mentoring Initiative include The Chicago Bar Association, the Cook County Bar Association, and the Hispanic Lawyers’ Association of Illinois.
Under the Initiative, 20 attorney mentors and 20 minors will meet at least twice per month, as well as have weekly telephone contacts. One of the in-person meetings each month will include a group outing for all mentors and minors.
Crediting Presiding Judge Toomin as the force behind the initiative, Chief Judge Evans said, “One of the many reasons I appointed Judge Toomin as Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Justice Division was his more than 28 years of judicial service as a trial and supervising judge in the Criminal Division. His experiences there reinforced the view that one of the fundamental challenges faced by the men who appeared in the adult court was the lack of positive male role models in their lives.”
Judge Toomin said, “The goal of the program is to provide an opportunity to try to fill this gap in the lives of the youth channeled into the juvenile justice system, as the majority of young men on probation were raised by mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, and rarely, if ever, had a male figure to guide them during their formative years.”
Judge Toomin noted in addition to the bar organziations, he was joined in the collaborative effort by the court’s Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department, led by Director Michael J. Rohan.
Program participants are all non-violent male juvenile probationers between the ages of 14 and 16 from two geographic court calendars, specifically the Lawndale and Auburn-Gresham communities. The youth were chosen with the input of the calendar judges – Judge Carol Kelly and Judge Colleen Sheehan – and the Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department. The program was developed as follows: A comprehensive protocol to guide implementation was developed by probation staff. The Chicago Bar Association next hosted an informal session earlier this summer at which approximately 40 attorneys applied to the pilot program. After the attorneys were interviewed and screened by court staff, a pool of twenty attorneys was identified. Attorneys were matched with minors based on information from their applications and interviews, and input from the Juvenile Probation Department. Following notification of their assignments, the attorneys were introduced to their charges by the minors’ probation officers.
The Initiative officially kicked off on Saturday, September 29, 2012, with a group outing to U.S. Cellular Field to see the Chicago White Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays. This outing was made possible through the efforts of The Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. A second group outing is currently scheduled to visit Six Flags Great America for the annual “Fright Night” event. Future group outings are expected to involve a mix of sporting events and educational opportunities. To that end, the bar organizations in the Initiative will be reaching out to the legal community to explore the availability of resources and opportunities to expand the scope of these outings.
Chief Judge Evans praised the initiative as an example of the value of cooperative efforts between the court, the legal community and the people they serve. He said he hopes for the program to eventually expand beyond the two current communities and include both young men and women on probation.
For more information:
Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, 312.603.6000
Presiding Judge Michael P. Toomin, 312.433.4757