The Downers Grove Regional Peer Jury was sworn in by DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin on October 16, 2018, and recently heard their first case. A Peer Jury is an alternative to court for first-time juvenile offenders of non-serious offenses, such as theft, vandalism, disorderly conduct, tobacco possession or underage drinking.The jury is comprised of eight, high-school aged student volunteers. There are 36 students in the jury pool. Juveniles must agree to the peer jury process and provide an admission of guilt to participate in the program.
In 2018, the Village Council directed staff to operate a peer jury program for qualifying cases from municipalities nearby Downers Grove which previously participated in the Downers Grove Township program. This cooperative effort includes Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Oak Brook, & Willowbrook.
The Peer Jury's purpose is to provide a means for the young offender to account for their own behavior to a group of peers and repair the harm caused to the victim and to the surrounding community. Peer Jury does not determine guilt or innocence. Peer Jurors attempt to understand why the offender committed the offense and then determine the consequences to help the offender be accountable for their actions and further develop the offender into an upstanding member of the community.
The Peer Jury began to hear cases at the start of 2019, as part of a six-month trial period.