Bail reform embraced by Cook County State’s Attorney
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, whose office is responsible for prosecuting crimes in the nation’s second-larget county, has launched a new approach to pretrial detention. Foxx announced earlier this month that her office would be recommending that people charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies who do not have a history of “violent crime” or pose a risk to public safety be released pre-trial.
Foxx’s change in policy marks a significant victory for justice reform advocates who argue that the cash-based system of jailing people accused of crime is biased against the poor.
“Routinely detaining people accused of low-level offenses who have not yet been convicted of anything, simply because they are poor is not only unjust — it undermines the public’s confidence in the fairness of the system,” Foxx said in a written statement.
Foxx said crimes where people would be released on their own recognizance — under what is called an I-bond — would “include retail theft, possession of a controlled substance and criminal damage to property.”
If prosecutors believe there are circumstances that make the defendant a threat or a flight risk, they can seek extra conditions.
Foxx’s new approach is also expected to help alleviate jail overcrowding in Chicago.
Local law enforcement has been supportive of the measure. A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department told the Chicago Tribune that Superintendent Eddie Johnson “supports efforts to keep violent offenders behind bars but doesn’t think the system is working when nonviolent offenders spend more time in jail than those who use and carry illegal guns.”
Bail reform is gaining nationwide support. Washington, D.C. and New Jerseyhave largely stopped using money as a condition for release and court challenges have ended or dramatically altered money bail systems in a number of other jurisdictions around the country.
Although bail is ultimately set by judges, prosecutors wield significant powerin the process and there is increasing attention on the role they can and should play. Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for District Attorney in Philadelphia, has vowed to end cash bail if he’s elected. The subject has garnered increased attention in the campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney. This past spring, Kim Ogg, who was elected District Attorney of Harris County, Texas, in November 2016, threw her support behind bail reform in her jurisdiction.