CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of graduates were awarded a clean slate Friday afternoon.
"I am so happy because I have been through a lot," Graduate Ray Ruiz said.
The young men on stage completed the requirements of the Avondale Restorative Justice Community Court. And by doing so, their charges will be dismissed and arrest and court records expunged.
"It is a lot of people that don't get second chances. They just throw you away. They don't care about what you got going on or what your situation is," graduate Jehamontae Pritchett said.
Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans created the restorative justice court to provide people ages 18 to 26 charged with nonviolent felony or misdemeanor crimes with a second chance.
"We want to reduce the opportunity for them to recidivate. And we do that by helping them get jobs, helping them to get a driver's license, helping them to complete their education," Evans said.
This is the first in-person graduation ceremony for community court in Avondale since it opened in 2020.
There are similar courts in North Lawndale and Englewood, as well as a county-wide restorative justice court located in the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Evans said the program is helping stop young people who commit crimes from becoming repeat offenders.
"It has been so successful that they would like to have one in every ward," he said.
Ruiz said having a criminal record makes it more challenging for some people to get on the right track.
"Just to have the opportunity to get through with this program and graduate and finally a clean record. It's just a positive outcome for me and for everyone who was in this program," he said.