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Justice Report: A Year in Review

Posted by Admin On April - 12 - 2018
From: Kim Foxx
Cook County State’s Attorney

Recently, I was announced the winner of Emily’s List’s Rising Star Award. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your support has always pushed me across the finish line when it’s mattered most.
I am humbled to be counted among the incredible women fighting for change in their communities, but this award also signals a true sea change: Cook County has emerged as a national leader in the fight for meaningful criminal justice reform. The world is watching us – and the groundbreaking work we’re doing here to reimagine what real justice and public safety look like. In that spirit, I wanted to update you on some of the steps we’ve taken in the last year to make the State’s Attorney’s Office a powerful force for good:
  1. Pursuing bail reform: In recognition of the unfair impact our system has on the poor, my office has worked to address the injustices of a cash-based bond system. In collaboration with the Public Defender’s office, we have allowed for the pre-trial release of people in jail on bonds of $1,000 or less without having to put up cash. Not only does this save taxpayer dollars, but it can help to change the trajectory for nonviolent defendants who would be adversely affected by an unnecessary stay in jail.
  2. Building bridges with law enforcement: For the first time in this office’s history, we are meeting monthly with the Chicago Police Department to share data about gun prosecutions and work together to improve the prosecution of those cases. We are also partnering with law enforcement to embed prosecutors in the most violent Chicago Police Districts as part of a new intelligence-driven prosecution model that prioritizes building strong cases against the small number of offenders who are driving the most violence.
  3. Facilitating public accountability: To maximize transparency and build public trust, we’ve released annual data reports summarizing our work as well as over six years of felony criminal case data on the Cook County Open Data Portal. By providing unprecedented access into the State’s Attorney’s Office and hiring our first ever Chief Data Officer, we are making sure our work is driven by data rather than anecdote, and pushing ourselves to measure success in metrics instead of war stories.
  4. Addressing past wrongs: Under the leadership of our new Conviction Integrity Unit Director, Mark Rotert, we are rigorously investigating claims of wrongful convictions and developing groundbreaking protocols to bring clarity and transparency to this crucial work. Already, jurisdictions from around the country are seeking to learn from our efforts, adopting similar protocols in their own offices. People are so confident that we will look at these cases seriously that we’ve already seen a 500% increase in requests for review.
  5. Shifting priorities: From raising the threshold for felony retail theft to $1,000 to declining to prosecute misdemeanor driving offenses, we have shifted our limited resources away from financial-based offenses to help break the cycle of criminalization in Cook County’s most vulnerable communities. As a result, the number of people charged with felony, instead of misdemeanor, retail theft dropped significantly in 2017, meaning fewer people will serve lengthy prison sentences for low-level retail theft.
I hope you found this informative, and that you take pride in the special role you’ve played to make our work possible. Like I told you at the start of this journey, the kind of change we are seeking will take time. Our criminal justice system will not transform overnight. But while there is always more we can do – a fact that weighs heavily on me – I am proud of the progress we’ve made so far and excited about the bold new path we are charting.

As we continue to grow in our work and act on our broader vision of justice, I am grateful for your support and energized for all that lies ahead.

Sincerely,

Kim Foxx
Cook County State’s Attorney
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