Does Kim Foxx present a formidable challenge to Anita Alvarez? She wants her job. The candidate and challenger for Cook County State’s Attorney is our guest on today’s show.
“No one wants to see nine-year-olds murdered near their grandmother’s house. But to suggest that the issues around violence are solely related to guns – without dealing with the issues of concentrated poverty, without dealing with the issues of high unemployment, without looking at the divestment in the neighborhoods where the violence is at its highest, is to suggest that once we lock up all the people who have guns, that all of a sudden we’ll have thriving communities that don’t have other issues.”
“So when you say I’m going to just throw you in jail and not deal with the issues that got you there,” she continues, “if you have a mental health issue or a drug addiction issue I’m just going to house you somewhere and then let you out. There’s a strong probability that I’m going to see you again because we’ve not dealt with the issues that got you there in the first place.”
Foxx wants to make the State’s Attorney’s office into a more “holistic” operation. “…criminal justice is not just about the individual incident and the individual defendant or victim,” she tells us. “It’s about what happens when the case is over and that victim goes back into the community. Do they trust their surroundings anymore? Do they feel like they’ve had their time to be heard? And for the defendant, what’s going to happen with their sentence and what happens when they come back? And I feel like the office had very much been isolated into this one moment in time and we hadn’t looked at the ripple effects…”
She came to these realizations after years in the State’s Attorney’s youth division. She gradually began to think that she could run the office more thoughtfully, and decided to seek election. “I think in my time in the State’s Attorney’s Office and under this current State’s Attorney, what I realized was that when you look at the bigger picture we weren’t necessarily being very thoughtful or strategic about the bigger picture. And what happens when you don’t do that is you keep chasing individual cases, but you’re not really stopping new crimes from happening, because you’re not thinking broadly enough,” she says.
But many of the changes she advocates could require legislative action. “So then are you saying,” we ask, ” that if you became our next State’s Attorney that you would take a more proactive public role in attempting to get laws changed or modified?
“Yes,” she says. ” Absolutely and across the board. I absolutely think that’s the role.”
“I need to be in Springfield telling the legislature listen, when you cut mental health services, when we don’t have a place for them to go they come to our jails,” she explains. “That’s real, and as your chief law enforcement officer I have to be thoughtful about that. Going to Springfield just for penalty enhancements is not thoughtful law enforcement. Going to Springfield and saying when you cut school resources, when we don’t have social workers in the classroom and we have students with behavioral or educational issues acting out and not the right people equipped to deal with them in a schoolhouse – they are coming to the jailhouse.”
Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent McCarthy have been adamant in their advocacy for stricter gun laws and for mandatory-minimum sentences for the possession of illegal firearms. Foxx calls the mandatory-minimum approach “short-sighted”. But perhaps more importantly, she asserts that taking sentencing discretion away from judges simply hands that responsibility to prosecutors. “Because the prosecutor has the ability to make charges,’ she explains. “They charge high, they charge low, they don’t charge at all. And so all of the discretion is housed with the prosecutor when you remove it from the judges.”
We talk briefly about Bond Court, which has been criticized in various news accounts as “medieval” She credits Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle – who hired her onto her staff and shortly thereafter promoted her to Chief of Staff, and has endorsed Foxx’s campaign – with initiating some big reforms. “We have come a long way in just two years from 2013 where we had less than 20% of the people who came through bond court were given alternative releases, to now 66%,” she tells us.
And we ask Kim Foxx about Dan Mihalopoulos’ column yesterday in the Sun-Times, in which he claims that Toni Preckwinkle’s expenditure of $25,000 for a round of pre-campaign polling was actually a political contribution.
“I think it’s a more complicated or complex question in terms of how do you report when you’re not yet a candidate,” she responded, (and) “we put our team to work. And so they’re working on it, and certainly if there is an issue that we need to resolve it will be resolved. ”
Kim Foxx has a dramatic back-story as a girl born in Cabrini-Green with some deeply difficult early family issues. But she survived and prospered, attending solid schools and ultimately getting the law degree that propelled her to these positions of significant responsibility. Carol Felsenthal conducted an extensive interview with Foxx for Chicago Magazine, and you can read it here.
And here’s the full transcript of today’s show. transcript nov 5 2015