Judge Charles Burns provides an insight into Cook County’s Rehabilitative Alternative Probation program

There are more than a hundred Problem-Solving Courts (PSC) in the state of Illinois. These courts are further categorized under Drug/DUI, Mental Health and Vet Courts. Drug courts play an important role in reducing recidivism rates, lowering the odds of substance use among participants, and increasing the chances of rehabilitation of participants. Judge Charles Burns considers drug courts to be “criminal justice reform at its finest”.

Judge Charles Burns underlines Cook County’s Rehabilitative Alternative Probation program

Charles Burns is a judge for the 15th Sub-circuit of the Cook County Judicial Circuit Court in Illinois. His current term ends on December 4th, 2028. Burns ran for re-election for the 15th Sub-circuit judge of the Cook County Judicial Circuit Court in Illinois and won in the retention election on November 8, 2022.

Illinois Circuit Court has 513 judges, and each of them is elected in partisan elections to six-year terms. Subsequent to the completion of these terms, judges who desire to continue serving have to compete in uncontested, nonpartisan retention elections. The chief judge of every circuit court is selected by peer vote; he or she serves in that capacity indefinitely. The circuit courts additionally are served by 391 associate judges, who basically are limited in that they may not preside over cases in which the defendant is charged with a felony. Associate judges are appointed to four-year terms by circuit judges.

Judge Charles Burns of Cook County Judicial Circuit Court is particularly renowned for leading the Rehabilitative Alternative Probation or the (W) RAP program. This is an alternative sentencing approach meant for people who have committed non-violent offences related to drugs. (W) RAP essentially is a two year felony drug treatment program. It is focused on providing access to treatment as an alternative to getting sentenced to prison. The goal of the Rehabilitative Alternative Probation program is to help people in their recovery from drugs and/or alcohol addiction. The program provides accountability, services and support to help the participants in readjusting to the community as a changed and sober individual.

All Rise basically is a well-established organization that focuses on advancing justice system responses to individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues. They follow a comprehensive approach that spans diverse stages of the justice system when it comes to collaborating with public health leaders to improve treatment outcomes for the ones involved in the justice system. This esteemed organization provides advocacy, technical assistance and training through such divisions. All Rise works at both national and local levels. In fact, their reach extends across all U.S. states, territories, and countries worldwide.

There are two separate Rehabilitative Alternative Probation programs under Cook County, one for men and the other for women. These programs are structured identically, but provide certain gender specific services in order to effectively meet the needs of the participants. While in the Rehabilitative Alternative Probation program, every participant has to complete a robust substance abuse treatment. This treatment includes frequent alcohol and drug screenings, court appearances, regular attendance in self-help support groups, as well as any other treatment or counseling that is recommended by the (W) RAP team.

A number of community partnerships have been established under the program in order to help the participants in varied aspects of life. While some of the partnerships help them to locate and obtain interim and long-term housing, as well as furnish newly obtained housing, some others provide career employment and financial credit services. Some of them offer mental health counseling and trauma informed treatment. Subsequent to the graduation of the program, the probation of the participant is terminated satisfactorily, their cases are dismissed, and their convictions are expunged.

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