CHICAGO — In a wide-ranging community forum Wednesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx pushed back against what she says is a false narrative that she’s soft on crime and wants offenders released.
Foxx took questions from the public at a meeting in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. She sought to clarify what she says are misperceptions about how she’s handling violent crime.
Chicago’s West Side branch of the NAACP hosted the “community conversation.” It provided a rare opportunity for the public to question the top prosecutor about the workings of her office, its response to violent crime, and how she’s attempting to reform the county’s justice system.
“People love to say, ‘It’s Kim Foxx,’ because I have pushed for bail reform,” she said. “It creates a narrative that everybody is out committing crime.”
Since her election in 2016, Foxx has supported bail reform, measures that protect the rights of defendants, beliefs in line with those of Chief Judge Timothy Evans. But at the meeting she made it clear her office does not control bail, only judges do.
“A judge makes the determination,” she said. “The state’s attorney’s office does not set bail.”
Critics say the push for reform is tilting the scales in favor of the accused. One result has been a dramatic increase in the number of people accused of violent crimes who are released on electronic monitoring while they await trail. Recent data from the Cook County Sheriff’s office shows the number of defendants on electronic monitoring facing murder charges jumped 444% between 2016 to 2021. Over the same span those charged with armed violence out on electronic monitoring went up 767%. Aggravated gun possession was up 436%. Felony gun possession more than 1700% and aggravated battery 178%.
“No one who commits crime of violence should be out,” Foxx said. “What had been manipulated is my support for bond reform, meaning that I think everyone should go. Your ability to get cash should not determine your bond. Your threat is the only determination if you should walk or not.”
City leaders, struggling with violent crime, have consistently questioned how Foxx’s office – and subsequently county judges – handle violent offenders.
Just this month, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had a public disagreement with Foxx over a West Side shootout that left one person dead. The shooting was captured on video. There were no charges.
“If they don’t feel like the criminal justice system is going to hold them accountable, we’re going to see a level of brazenness that will send this city into chaos and we cannot let that happen,” Lightfoot said at the time.
Foxx clarified that that the initial reporting, which indicated her office didn’t bring charges because it the shootout involved “mutual combat,” was wrong. She said the only thing that determines charges is evidence, and in that case it wasn’t there.
“It hurt my heart that there would be a narrative that I wouldn’t charge a case that was ready to be charged,” Foxx said.
Foxx said 84% of the charges brought to her office are approved. And she encouraged the public to seek out information on their own and directed them to the state’s attorney’s web site which offers comprehensive data on what cases are charged.