Progress in Chicago

Where does criminal justice reform stand one year after Kim Foxx elected?

One year after being elected and sworn into office on a reform platform, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is making progress—but, not surprisingly, has more to do to accomplish those reforms, according to a new report.

The report is a joint effort of the People’s Lobby and Reclaim Chicago, two allied groups that worked for Foxx’s election; and the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, which advocates for criminal justice reform. In the past year, People’s Lobby has engaged Foxx in large and small meetings and “encouraged her to make bold moves to decrease incarceration,” according to the report. Chicago Appleseed has pressed for bail reform, and its volunteers have observed hundreds of hours of Bond Court proceedings in recent months.

The report focuses on five areas in which Foxx pledged, during her campaign and her transition, to take action. Yet it is silent on other major concerns, including prosecution of police misconduct and addressing wrongful convictions. Public dissatisfaction with how Foxx’s predecessor, Anita Alvarez, handled those two areas helped Foxx win office.

Certainly, one year is not enough to transform a bureaucracy like the state’s attorney’s office, much less the broader criminal justice system. As the report emphasizes, Foxx faces an array of obstacles: many of the hundreds of attorneys in her office come from the “tough on crime” school; other players within the criminal justice system, from cops to judges, often don’t share her reform agenda; and significant budget cuts since she was sworn in.

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