Chicago State Attorney Kim Foxx came into office with a progressive mandate to make big changes in a city that’s seen far too many negative headlines. When it comes to criminal justice, the challenge before her was huge. But now, the changes she’s made have inspired some - and potentially disturbed others.
A new report from The Marshall Project shows just how huge many of the changes made under Kim Foxx really are. Their analysis “provides the first detailed look at the more than 35,000 cases that flow through Foxx’s office every year.”
According to the data, “since she took office she turned away more than 5,000 cases that would have been pursued by previous State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, mostly by declining to prosecute low-level shoplifting and drug offenses and by diverting more cases to alternative treatment programs.” The analysis goes on to note that, though her term has yet to conclude, “during Foxx’s tenure so far, prosecutors have pursued a smaller share of cases than under the previous state’s attorney.”
Prosecutors have the power to decide whether they want to charge a case at all before they go to court. Therefore, many experts consider them to be one of the more overlooked sources of power in the criminal justice system.
A movement has taken off to elect “progressive prosecutors” around the nation. These are prosecutors taking office by expressing the intention to use their power to address the harms of the criminal justice system like mass incarceration, racial biases, and the death penalty.
Foxx is one of those prosecutors to many who support her, but not everyone likes the changes she’s making. The head of Chicago’s police union has criticized her for not taking enough cases to court, although her efforts to reduce prosecution of non-violent offenses is a strategic way progressive prosecutors aim to reduce mass incarceration.
Further analysis from the Marshall Project estimates “that Cook County prosecutors have dismissed an additional 2,300 drug cases that… would have otherwise gone to trial - or ended in a plea.” They go on to detail how “defendants in some of these cases instead have been diverted to treatment and counseling that led to their charges being dropped.”
The implications of Foxx’s work has the potential to reach far and wide for the Black community in Chicago. Black people are overrepresented in prisons and jails in Illinois.
Incarceration has dropped nearly 20% under Kim Foxx. Ultimately, when election time comes, the people will decide if they like Kim Foxx’s reforms or if they prefer the traditional “tough on crime” style prosecution.