Vincent Cornelius: The Winds of Change in Criminal Law

It is widely believed that the criminal justice system in America is built on a broken business model. For decades, the system has been very much constrained by a bend toward incarceration, and a struggle to grasp the holistic importance of treatment, rehabilitation, and restoration.

Recent developments, however, suggest that we are beginning to embrace a new paradigm. The United States now has a Drug Czar who is neither enamored with the title nor married to the failed policies of the past several decades. Courts are embracing more progressive methods for dealing with the criminal defendant through specialty courts that redeploy resources to rehabilitate and restore nonviolent defendants.

The promise of more progressive policies and courts serves everyone by recognizing the wisdom of addressing the criminal defendant as an individual worthy of an opportunity to modify his behavior, address his addiction or mental illness, and even address the criminal mindset, with the very funds that would otherwise be used to simply incarcerate him. Ultimately, our nation will be the beneficiary of such shifts of resources away from warehousing the problem in prisons to functioning as an agent of change.

About Vincent Cornelius

Vincent CorneliusVincent is Principal of Cornelius Law and President-Elect of the Illinois State Bar Association. He began his law career in 1989, serving as a felony prosecutor in the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office. While there, he gained extensive bench and jury trial experience in felony, misdemeanor, traffic, juvenile court neglect, abuse and delinquency cases.

Prior to establishing his own trial practice in 1994, Vincent was an associate attorney with the Chicago law firm, James D. Montgomery and Associates. In this position, he practiced in the areas of civil and criminal litigation, including municipal law, civil rights, personal injury, medical malpractice, and criminal defense.

Vincent earned his JD in 1989 from the Northern Illinois University College of Law, where he received the Outstanding Alumni Award and now serves as a member of its Board of Visitors. He served as president of the Illinois Bar Foundation from 2008-2010 and is currently the president elect of the Illinois State Bar Association.

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