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The Hillsdale Justice Project moved into new head­quarters last month which they ren­o­vated them­selves. Courtesy|Facebook

Dressed in metal-tipped boots and a blue shirt, Jon Rutan bustles around the space, setting up a pro­jector. A pistol sits on his right hip. Five rows of four chairs fill up most of the blue and white room, which is empty save for a few people.

Rutan is the edu­cation director for the Hillsdale Justice Project, an orga­ni­zation ded­i­cated to edu­cating local res­i­dents about the justice system and U.S. Con­sti­tution. HJP recently held a fundraiser that raised more than $400 to put the fin­ishing touches on their new head­quarters, which they moved into in March.

HJP was started in 2012 and cur­rently has around 10 core members, according to Rutan.

The kitch­enette coffee maker hums as Rutan leads everyone in the Pledge of Alle­giance and then a moment of silence. He puts in a disc of a 40-minute lecture from the 2013 Con­sti­tu­tional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Asso­ci­ation con­vention, inter­jecting in a few places, but saving most of his dis­cussion prompts for the end of the lecture.

As he walks his stu­dents through answering these ques­tions, he reminds them the origin of certain amend­ments or quotes, often citing the Fed­er­alist Papers.

“Rutan has a good way of reciting these and bringing out what the people who wrote them were thinking at the time,” said James Cramer, a student of HJP for around 3 months. “They’ve helped me solidify my feelings for what the nation was meant to be and what it is no longer”

This is a typical class at HJP. Although the project does coach people through what may be unfair rulings in the criminal justice system, its members also meet to teach people about the meaning of the Con­sti­tution — and what it means for them.

“That’s what we do,” said Dennis Wain­scott, one of several directors of the project. “Try to help people get to the place where they can help them­selves.”

Wain­scott com­pared the project to his pre­vious expe­rience as a min­ister. Just like a min­ister preaches to help his con­gre­gation under­stand, the project teaches people so they can under­stand the justice system.

HJP helps 10 to 15 people a year walk through the justice system, although those numbers can some­times reach between 40 and 50, according to Rutan.

Although the project does help people who are wrong­fully charged, Rutan stresses that the project’s mission is about justice as a whole. A lot of people think justice means walking free, Rutan said, but he con­siders it to be more than that.

“If you’re guilty of some­thing small, you shouldn’t serve 20 years,” Rutan said.