Cook County state’s attorney candidates discuss criminal justice reform, racism at forum
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx debated challengers Bill Conway and Bob Fioretti at the Saturday forum, hosted by the ACLU of Illinois at Chicago-Kent Law School.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Democratic primary challenger Bill Conway found rare common ground on Saturday — agreeing that thecriminal justice system was racist.
Former Ald. Bob Fioretti disagreed, arguing it instead had “inherit bias.”
Foxx and her two of her three challengers squared off in aforum hosted by the ACLU of Illinois at Chicago-Kent Law School, 565 W. Adams St.The fourth Democratic candidate, former prosecutor Donna More, did not attend.
Foxx said her office has addressed racial disparities by compiling and making public all of its felony-level case data. She said this has allowed prosecutors to identify areas where they might be overcharging cases for certain racial groups.
Conway praised Foxx’s use of data to identify racial disparities in charging but said he would push for greater public transparency in the office. Fioretti said the office should focus on the root causes of crime, like poverty.
“We will not solve the problems of crime and a revolving door of people going in and out of prison unless ... we make sure our communities are clean, up-kept, offer good education and a pathway to home ownership and a good job,” Fioretti said.
Fioretti said bringing more full-time jobs with living wages to the city would reduce crime, thus decreasing the prison population, but he did not say how he would achieve those goals as the county’s top prosecutor.
Foxx said the office should prioritize prosecuting violent offenses over nonviolent crimes, such as retail theft.
“If I prosecuted everything that was allowable under the criminal code, we would not have enough resources, so we prioritize violence and said that people who don’t need to go to prison or jail shouldn’t go there.”
Conway said the county should expand programs redirecting people who commit drug-related offenses into recovery treatment, rather than into the criminal justice system.
Foxx agreed with Conway, pointing to her office expunging records for people convicted of minor marijuana offenses.
The three candidates largely agreed the county’s cash bail system needs reform, although the they each proposed different ways to get there.
Foxx called for abolishing the cash bail system, while Conway and Fioretti argued for ending cash bail for lower-level offenses only.