A Redesigned Courtroom to Promote Dignity, Equity and Social Justice

Cook County Central Bond Court, Chicago, IL

In response to numerous criminal justices, elected and appointed leaders stepping forward to state they believe the poor physical design of Cook County’s Central Bond Court negatively impacts bond and detainment decisions in Chicago, our firm partnered with Civic Consulting Alliance to completely redesign the courtroom and initiate positive change. The redesign addresses numerous challenges identified by the stakeholders related to layout, organization, acoustics, lighting, access to information, and more that previously could prevent judges from receiving necessary information and discouraged fair hearings.

The newly designed courtroom will promote dignity, equity and social justice in a city with acute challenges related to the jailing of nonviolent detainees. Consider the following data:

  • Cook County’s Central Bond Court can rule on up to 200 cases in two hours translating to an average of 37 seconds to 2 minutes per case.
  • Many of these bond court cases deal with bonds set at $1,000 or less. There are hundreds of nonviolent individuals currently in jails simply because they can’t meet $1,000 bonds. There are thousands around the country.
  • In Cook County, if an individual isn’t able to make bail, the wait time for their case is on average 57 days and has been up to 7 years in extreme situations.

While these numbers are bleak, the redesigned Cook County Central Bond Court is a positive step forward. It reinstates dignity and decorum in the court room, ensures judges have proper information about each defendant, communication is clear, and defendants and families understand the proceedings. This should equate to better decision making related to bond and detainment decisions moving forward, and could set a breakthrough model to be followed across the US.