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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx praises elimination of cash bail in Illinois during Law School talk

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said she is “incredibly proud” that Illinois became the first state to completely abolish cash bail. Foxx spoke at Notre Dame Law School on Tuesday, three weeks after the Pre-Trial Fairness Act took effect in Illinois and eliminated the system after a series of legal challenges.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks with Max Gaston, the director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Notre Dame Law School.

Known as a progressive prosecutor, Foxx heads the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country with almost 1,300 employees. Cook County is also home to one of the largest jail sites in the country. 

Foxx said the cash bail system is not grounded in the public interest.

“I'm incredibly proud that Illinois is the first state to eliminate cash bail, because it was a system that is not rooted in public safety,” Foxx said. 

The cash bail system can at times be at odds with the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, Foxx said, which prohibits excessive bail. 

Foxx said cash bail can incentivize some defendants who cannot afford bail to plead guilty to crimes when innocent. She said said eliminating the system promotes public safety. 

“We believe that it is fair, just and equitable and a system that is rooted in public safety,” Foxx said.

She hopes Chicago can use its prominence to set an example that even major cities can abolish cash bail without a resulting spike in crime.

“It is our hope in a place like Chicago, which has a national reputation, that we'll be able to demonstrate that we're able to do this without an increase in crime," she said.

Foxx said the criminal justice system is to blame, not just the criminals.   

“It’s not just the people doing these things,” Foxx said. “It's a system that knows that what we're doing isn't working and expecting a different outcome.”

Foxx grew up in Cabrini-Green, a public housing project in Chicago that was torn down in the 2000s. Foxx said Cabrini-Green was a place where public policy failures were obvious. 

“It was a place where I believe that many of our public policy failures were evident and on display — issues related to public housing, poverty, access to health care, mental health care and economic instability,” she said. 

Ignoring context and nuance when discussing the criminal justice system can have harmful effects and cast damaging stereotypes, Foxx said. 

“Because then we will blind ourselves to the notion that there are just good people and bad people in the criminal justice system and our jails are just filled with bad people who make bad choices," she said.

Foxx said the suppression of conversations around race has had lasting impacts on the criminal justice system. 

“We are living in a time, if I'm being quite honest, in which conversations around race and justice are being suppressed across the country … and all of that permeates the work that we do in our criminal justice system,” Foxx said.

Foxx said her office has helped Cook County attempt to move on from its notorious title as the “False Confession Capital.”

“I would talk about the work that we've done in a system in Cook County that was once called the false confession capital of the United States,” she said. “We had a history in Chicago in particular with a police department that had engaged in some of what I would call the most egregious civil rights tragedies of our time,” 

Foxx singled out the traffic court system for allegedly preying on the poor.

“Every time we would go to court in our traffic court, it wasn't a matter of this person being a danger, it was their inability to pay, so we have become glorified bill collectors in a system that was preying on the poor," Foxx said. 

As a self-proclaimed progressive prosecutor, Foxx said its her duty to recognize those who have been impact by the systems in place.

"To be a progressive prosecutor, to me, is recognizing that my mother and all of her shortcomings had value that those who have been impacted by systems around them by no choices of their own reacted in a way that should not be a surprise are capable of being redeemed,” Foxx said.