Report Shows Changes Of Culture In State's Attorney's Office, Use Of Discretion In Prosecution

Nancy Harty
October 09, 2019 - 1:46 pm

(Photo by Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Criminal justice reform advocates are applauding Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx for pushing her office to use more discretion in prosecuting cases.

The Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, Reclaim Chicago, and the People's Lobby interviewed 28 local defense attorneys about their interactions with prosecutors.

The group said those attorneys found Foxx's office more open to letting people stay out of jail before their trial and willing to consider different ways to resolve their cases.

Those answers back up a report the groups released in July that finds a 19 percent decrease in prison sentences during Kim Foxx's second year in office. 

Staff attorney for the fund Sarah Staudt said instead of pursuing maximum sentences for low-level drug offenses, the State's Attorney's Office frequently explores alternatives such as drug treatment, counseling, and probation.

"Those diversion programs that Kim Foxx has used, at such a higher level than her predecessors, really gives people the opportunity to get what they need and then move on to become citizens just like everybody else," Staudt said.

Supporters of the movement said that not only saves taxpayers' money by keeping low-level offenders out of jail, but it also enables them to work, go to school, and get the services they need to stay out of trouble.

Foxx is up for re-election next year and her approach should not be interpreted as soft on crime, the groups said.

Staudt said every crime is different so a one-size-fits all answer is not in anyone's best interest.