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Cook County prosecutor fights to keep a new mom out of jail

SA Kim Foxx

Cook County prosecutor fights to keep a new mom out of jail

In a highly unusual move, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office recently became embroiled in a fight to keep a new mother from being locked up.

Karen Padilla Garcia, 26, went into labor after she was detained in the Cook County Jail following a probation violation last month. Garcia was taken to Stroger Hospital where she gave birth to a baby girl.

Due to Garcia’s circumstances as a new mother, Foxx’s office arranged for Garcia to be granted bond so she could go directly home from the hospital with her child.

But the prosecution’s efforts to help Garcia return home, rather than jail, did not rest well with Judge Nicholas Ford, who had originally ordered Garcia detained after she violated her probation. Ford held a hearing after Garcia got out to determine if she should be locked up again.

Garcia had originally pleaded guilty to stealing cash from the register of a restaurant where she worked. Placed on probation, Garcia was subsequently jailed after she missed court dates and meetings with her probation officer, failed to reimburse the restaurant for the money she had stolen, and picked up traffic tickets even though she didn’t have a license.

Prosecutors were adamant that Garcia, who had no history of violence, did not belong in jail.

“You cannot incarcerate people for — it’s not a debtor’s prison we’re running here, your honor,” said First Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sussman during what was reported to be an increasingly heated exchange with Ford.

As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Ford at one point threatened to hold Sussman in contempt of court for interrupting. He ultimately let Garcia go on her own recognizance, but not before repeatedly chastising her for violating various terms of her probation.

After the fact, Ford received heavy criticism for locking Garcia up in the first place. ABC7 also reported that Ford may have violated the law when he jailed Garcia and set her next hearing for 60 days in the future, even though Garcia was over seven months pregnant. Legal experts told the tv station that Ford was supposed to hold a bond hearing within 14 days.

There was also no prosecutor or public defender in court when Garcia was initially detained.

While the affirmative role that Foxx’s office played in seeking Garcia’s release may have seemed unusual, it also may be a sign of things to come. In June, Foxx announced 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. Both Foxx and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart have criticized the use of money bail and supported efforts to get rid of it.

Bail reform is gaining traction around the country. The District of Columbia and states like Kentucky and New Jersey have moved away from cash bail and states like California are now considering legislation that would bring about similar reforms. Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia, has vowed to end cash bail if he’s elected. Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have also co-sponsored the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act, which would “encourage states to reform or replace the bail system.”

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