Crusader Staff Report
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Friday, January 31, held a meeting with members of Chicago’s Black Press at her campaign branch in Bronzeville with more than a month left before the March 17 Primary.
It was Foxx’s only meeting with the Black Press as she wraps up her initial term as the first Black female top prosecutor in the nation’s second largest county.
In the first 15 minutes Foxx highlighted her childhood background at the former Cabrini Green public housing projects and her days as a student at Lincoln Park High School on the North Side. She mentioned how the Laquan McDonald case led to her victory during her campaign as Cook County State’s Attorney.
“I inherited an office and criminal justice system that for many centuries disproportionally impacted Black people. [It was] a justice system that didn’t take much analysis to see that it was treating Black people unfairly.”
Foxx said whether it was being deemed the false confession capital of the United States – a casual acceptance that people had around police brutality and Detective Jon Burge – or whether it was a jail population that was 86 percent Black and brown, and a juvenile detention center that was 92 percent Black and brown,” it was time for change.
“I had a vision. We were going to take on issues of systemic racism in our justice system. We were going to focus on violent crime because 2016 was an awful year. Our resources were going towards violent crimes.”
The rate of solving homicides in the city of Chicago was under 20 percent and was a national embarrassment Foxx said. It resulted in people living in the neighborhoods most impacted, having very little trust according to Foxx.
To refine the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Foxx said she focused on criminal justice reform and public safety, particularly the bail bond system.
She said there were thousands of people charged with nonviolent crimes in jail because they were too poor to post bond. Foxx said she worked with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to reduce the jail population. She said there were 10,500 people incarcerated and that Cook County had been under a federal consent decree for 40 years to reduce the jail population.
Foxx said in 2017, her office stopped prosecuting people who were driving with suspended licenses.
“What we knew …is that every court date someone would come in and ask for a continuance because they didn’t have the $100 or $300 to get their license back. And basically, we were glorified bill collectors. We literally had people making the choice between whether I pay for this ticket or whether I pay rent. Overwhelmingly these people were Black and brown and poor.”
Foxx said the decision did not go well with some Chicago area organizations.
“People got mad. The FOP got mad. Suburban police got mad because for them it’s easy. It’s an easier arrest to pick up someone, check to see their license is suspended. But at what cost, how do I justify having my attorneys being glorified bill collectors while we have blood spilling in our streets?
Foxx said the unprecedented move put her office ahead of its time. She noted that in 2019, the City of Chicago passed an ordinance saying it was stopping the practice of suspending licenses for failure to pay tickets.
Then came Governor JB Pritzker signing into law a bill that would end the state’s practice of suspending tickets based on the driver’s failure to pay and reinstating thousands of suspended licenses of Illinois drivers.
“I’m proud to say that we started that three years ago when it wasn’t popular.”
Foxx also highlighted her office’s vacating over 1,000 marijuana convictions just before marijuana became legal as of January 1 this year.
Foxx noted that her office threw out 66 wrongful conviction cases that were established by false confessions under Sgt. Ronald Watts.
While these moves are achievements, they concern Foxx’s critics who have accused her of being soft on crime. They point to the case of Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who in 2019, faced 16 felony counts after he was accused of staging a hoax in the Streeterville neighborhood, where he said he was attacked by two men who were homophobic.
Foxx recused herself from the case and the charges were dropped, sparking calls for Foxx’s resignation. A special prosecutor is currently investigating the Cook County State’s Attorney’s handling of the case. It’s uncertain whether those findings will be released before voters go to the polls March 17.
The Smollett case came up during Foxx’s meeting with the Black Press. Foxx affirmed her belief that her office was not transparent in handling the case.
Recently Foxx’s main opponent, Bill Conway, released a political television ad with a Black woman, Candace Clark. Conway says Foxx’s office did not give Clark the same treatment as they did Smollett. Foxx disagrees.
The Chicago Black Aldermanic Caucus on Tuesday, February 4 released a statement in support of Foxx.
“We are not fooled by Bill Conway’s recent ad. He is an opportunistic candidate who took on the Candace Clark case simply for personal gain.
“Instead of exploiting people of color, Conway should focus on his plans to deliver equitable justice. That is if he has any. It’s unclear up to this point since he’s spent all of his father’s money on Jussie Smollett ads. In doing so, Conway has revealed that he lacks the forethought to lead this office.”