By Lee Edwards
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx was on the West Side last week for a forum on public safety and criminal justice hosted by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin. The event, held March 11 at Hope Community Church, 5900 W. Iowa Ave. in Austin, comes in the wake of a new bond reform initiative that Foxx announced earlier this month.
According to a statement released by Foxx's office on March 1, the State's Attorney will "begin proactively supporting agreed motions requesting I-Bonds in cases for defendants who have been detained in Cook County for lengthy periods of time due to their inability to pay a bond of $1,000 or less."
Unlike a D-Bond, which requires defendants to pay 10 percent on their bond amounts in order to go free, an I-Bond allows defendants to be released on their own recognizance.
According to Cook County Sheriff's Department data, 181 of the over 7,500 detainees at Cook County Jail are nonviolent offenders who can't post bond of $1,000 or less.
"Public safety is best served by detaining those who pose a threat to our communities rather than jailing those who are simply poor and unable to post bond for nonviolent offenses," Foxx said in the March 1 statement. "This costs taxpayers millions of dollars per year, and does not serve public safety."
At the March 11 forum, Foxx called said that bail reform is a priority for her office. Seventy percent of the people currently in jail have committed non-violent offenses, she said.
Foxx also said that there's been a breach of trust and "credibility gaps" that need to be filled between the community and the Office of the Cook County State's Attorney. She singled out the case of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times in 2015 by a Chicago police officer, to explain why more decisive leadership in her office was needed.
"It should never, ever, ever take 13 months to make a decision on a case," said Foxx, who said that the families of both McDonald and the officer, Jason Van Dyke, need clarity.
Foxx said protocols have been put into place where independent investigations will be conducted in the future to ensure that decisions for prosecutions are based on deliberate and thorough information.
The new State's Attorney, who just completed her first 100 days in office, also talked about the state's existing gun laws. She said that Illinois already has strong gun laws on the books. Judges, however, often have the power of discretion when sentencing people to probation or imprisonment.
Foxx said that data currently doesn't exist to show which judges are imposing tougher sentences or which repeat offenders are being released too early because they were not properly sentenced. She also mused about legislation that would hold gun traffickers accountable just as illegal gun owners are held accountable.
"We have a pipeline of guns coming into these neighborhoods and when we look at the number of arrests for gun trafficking it is less than a handful," said Foxx.
State Rep. Camille Lilly (78th), who was among a handful of West Side lawmakers who attended the event, called for stronger gun trafficking laws. She said that the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, of which she's the current chair, has taken a leadership role in pushing legislation this session to address gun traffickers.
"This is our top priority, so we will continue working with the community and the State's Attorney's office," said Lilly.
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