Promise: Reducing the prosecution of low-level nonviolent felonies
- Foxx directed her office to stop prosecuting shoplifting cases under $1,000 as felonies and to dismiss many drug cases in favor of alternative prosecution programs. Overall, Foxx declined to prosecute more than 5,000 cases that would have been pursued had the prosecution rates under Anita Alvarez held.
- According to a 2019 report released by the State’s Attorney’s Office, alternatives to prosecution, such as community-based services and treatment, rose about eight percent during Foxx’s first two years in office. A report by The People’s Lobby found that the number of people sentenced to incarcerations dropped from 12,262 in 2017 to 9,941 in 2018.
Promise: Dealing more aggressively with police misconduct
- In her campaign, Foxx stated that she wanted to assign an independent prosecutor to every police shooting case. After winning the Demoratic primary, Foxx reiterated in an interview with the Chicago Reader that she wanted a special prosecutor on “all police-involved shootings,” and proposed the creation of a division of special investigators in the state legislature to be responsible for charging an officer in the first place. Foxx, whose office has not appointed any special prosecutors, told the Weekly that she does not have the authority to do so, and that the presiding judge of the Cook County Criminal Court is the only one with such authority.
- In 2017, Foxx supported the Special Prosecutor Act, which gave the Illinois Office of the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) jurisdiction over the State’s Attorney’s Office for the first time. Foxx told the weekly that now, if the State’s Attorney’s Office rejects charges for a police officer in an officer-involved shooting case, all documents are sent to ILSAAP for review.
- Foxx prosecuted CPD Officer Lowell Houser and Amtrak Police Officer LaRoyce Tankson for shootings each was separately involved in. She declined to bring charges against CPD Officer Khalil Muhammad, who shot and wounded Ricky Hayes in 2017.
Rating: Mostly Kept
Promise: Addressing wrongful convictions
- Cook County’s Conviction Integrity Unit was created under Anita Alvarez’s leadership, but has grown considerably on Foxx’s watch. Foxx overturned ninety-five convictions linked to the corrupt CPD Sergeant Ronald Watts alone.
- Foxx announced plans to expand the unit even further by adding ten new positions in order to give similar scrutiny to cases tied to former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Foxx also expunged one thousand marijuana convictions last year.
Promise: Increasing transparency between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the public
- In 2018, Foxx released over six years of felony criminal case data on the Cook County Open Data Portal.
- Pursuant to the Special Prosecutor Act, when both the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Illinois State Appellate Prosecutors Association agree that a police officer who shoots and kills a civilian should not be charged, the declination, documentation, and decision-making materials are posted on the Office’s Law Enforcement Accountability Unit’s website.
- Despite the increase in data release, many members of the public still find the office to be opaque, especially when it comes to decisions made in high-profile cases or rationales for decisions to not prosecute certain cases.
Rating: Mostly Kept
Promise: Reforming Chicago’s bail system
- Foxx campaigned largely on the promise of reducing the use of cash bond to detain people pretrial and to stop the use of wealth as an indicator of public safety risk in the Cook County criminal justice system.
- In 2017, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans issued a general order requiring Chicago judges to stop using unaffordable money bonds to detain people pretrial, a change that, according to many defense attorneys, “would have had much less impact without the cooperation of the State’s Attorney’s Office.”
- Foxx testified in Springfield in support of bail reform legislation, something the Illinois State’s Attorneys’ Association opposed. In an interview with the Weekly, Foxx stated that her office is once again working with the state legislature and governor to support additional bail reform legislation.
- Foxx announced that her office would no longer oppose the granting of I-bonds to detainees charged with nonviolent crimes who were to post $1,000 or less in bail but could not afford to. This allowed these defendants to remain free pretrial and return to trial on their own recognizance. Later, Foxx instructed her prosecutors to start actually recommending to judges that defendants in lower-level cases be given I-bonds, a change from previous policy in which prosecutors did not usually recommend a particular bail amount.
- However, The People’s Lobby and other advocates found in 2019 that Assistant State’s Attorneys still largely observe “older, more punitive conceptions of how bond should be set,” which are often outside the realm of affordability for those facing detention pretrial, and that twenty-one percent of individuals who were issued money bonds in the prior two years remain solely in custody because they were unable to afford their bail, many for amounts less than $1,000.
Rating: Partially Kept
Promise: Reducing racial disparities in Cook County’s criminal justice system
- Foxx has stated that her office’s creation of an open data portal has constituted an effort to address racial disparities in the county’s criminal justice system, as compiling and making felony case data public has allowed prosecutors in the office to identify areas where charges for similar crimes vary across racial groups.
- The State’s Attorney’s March 2019 Two Year Report outlined steps that they have taken to reduce implicit bias in their prosecutorial decisions, including trainings conducted by external experts on “the role of implicit bias, the history of racism in policing, intergenerational and community trauma, and the idea of equitable justice in the context of an unequal society.” The Weekly has found no evidence to further the claim that these trainings have led to a reduction in racial bias in the office.
Rating: Minimally Kept
Kiran Misra is a journalist and policy researcher. She last wrote for the Weekly about the Invisible Institute’s investigation of the CPD shooting of Harith Augustus.