Conway, Lose the Con / The Stars Aligned

Notes from the 10/30/2019 issue

Conway, Lose the Con

Earlier this month, Bill Conway—a DePaul adjunct, former prosecutor, and son of a billionaire investor—released the first ad of his campaign to unseat Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Its main feature is a brief clip of Foxx answering a WGN interview question about whether she shares embattled CPD superintendent Eddie Johnson’s frustration with “gun offenders getting out the very next day.” Foxx pauses briefly in thought, a seconds-long interim before answering—but apparently, this is proof enough for Conway that Foxx is unfit for office. The ad, enthusiastically shared by the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, declines to show the rest of Foxx’s answer—that, despite Johnson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s rhetoric around “gun offenders,” the State’s Attorney’s office has a multitude of legal factors to consider when seeking bail, not just whether or not the person is a “gun offender.” That the term “gun offender itself” is an obfuscating term—one that lumps murderers together with those who are found carrying guns, illegally, for their own protection—is apparently lost on Conway).

Like much criticism of Foxx, the ad refuses to acknowledge that the office—for its entire existence before Foxx was elected, and still, in many ways, to this day—has incarcerated hundreds unnecessarily, abused its discretion, and prosecuted dozens of cases in which the defendant was tortured, coerced, or marred by other law enforcement or prosecutorial misconduct. However, a new analysis of case-level data by the Chicago Reporter, the Marshall Project, and data journalism collective The Pudding finds the actual results of Foxx’s policies: some 5,000 low-level cases were not pursued that Anita Alvarez, whom Foxx ousted in 2016, likely would have prosecuted. Another recent report from the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice found that the county incarceration rate has dropped some twenty percent.

All the while, the violent crime rate has continued to decline—and despite Johnson, Lightfoot, and the FOP’s insistence otherwise, Foxx’s policies and new county rules around bond have not resulted in a revolving door of “gun offenders” wreaking havoc on the streets of the county.According to the Chief Judge’s office, a small fraction of those arrested on a gun charge in the last year and a half or so have committed a new gun offense. 

Foxx has other issues as a State’s Attorney, and plenty that deserve legitimate criticism. But her diversion of low-level cases, and more nuanced approach for seeking bail for non-violent “gun offenders,” are not among them—at least, not with the lines of attack currently being used. If nothing else, it should be demanded that candidates for the chief law enforcement position in the county not distort facts. They should be campaigning to continue the court system’s move towards decarceration, rather than rolling back real progress made in the last four years. (Sam Stecklow)

The Stars Aligned

Last Monday, the city’s twenty-six theatres that maintain union Equity contracts gathered for its Chicago night of recognition for theater excellence. This was the Joseph Jefferson Awards, best known as The Jeffs and named in honor of the nineteenth-century American theater actor and child star.

Of these twenty-six eligible theatres, Hyde Park’s Court Theatre garnered fifteen nominations and five wins for its 2018/2019 season. Three wins were awarded to Photograph 51, a retelling of the life of Rosalind Franklin, who provided major scientific breakthroughs in the discovery of the double helix. Chaon Cross was awarded one of two Outstanding Performer in a Principal awards, while the play earned awards for Scenic Design and Direction (Vanessa Stalling). 

An award for Outstanding Ensemble was given to For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf, whose production season began shortly before the death of esteemed playwright Ntozake Shange, and was directed by Seret Scot, an original cast member of the choreopoem’s first Broadway production in 1976. 

Finally, Manuel Cinema and Court’s collaborative production of Frankenstein was recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Artistic Specialization for Kristy Leigh Hall’s interdisciplinary costume design. The Court’s production of Frankenstein was one of three retellings of the classic story that received nominations this season. (Anna Aguiar Kosicki)

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