In Chicago, Rethinking the Link Between Crime and Incarceration []


By Kira Lerner, The Appeal, August 5, 2019

A new report shows that a progressive approach, like the one advanced by Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, can help decrease jail populations--and crime.

Incarceration has long been touted as a necessary deterrent to crime. But across the country, just the opposite is proving true: Progressive prosecutors are successfully reducing incarceration without any corresponding increase in crime rates.

In Chicago, crime is dropping. According to a new report, the number of people sentenced to prison or jail fell by almost 20 percent last year while violent crime also dropped by roughly 8 percent under State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Foxx, the top prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois, was elected on a decarceration platform in November 2016. As one of a growing number of progressive prosecutors across the country, she has reformed Chicago’s legal system by overseeing an office in which prosecutors are less likely to seek jail or prison time and more likely to use alternatives to incarceration to ensure public safety. 

The report was released by Reclaim Chicago, The People’s Lobby, and Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, local organizations that supported Foxx’s election. They said the findings in Chicago demonstrate how higher incarceration can actually fuel crime rates. 

“The root causes of many crimes, including poverty and lack of mental health services or treatment for substance use disorder, go unaddressed or are made worse through prison sentences,” Rev. David Thornton of The People’s Lobby, said at a press conference. 

According to the report, the number of sentences involving incarceration fell 19 percent in Foxx’s second year in office, from 12,262 people in 2017 to 9,941 in 2018. At the same time, FBI statistics show that violent crimes reported in Chicago were down 8 percent from January through June 2018, as compared with the same time frame in 2017.  

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