Felonies, Pleas and Convictions Examined in New Cook County Report

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Jan. 11, 2017.Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Jan. 11, 2017.

Criminal sentences were levied in nearly 22,000 felony cases in Cook County last year. Of those, more than 11,000 suspects were sent to prison, another 8,800 received probation and 51 went through the county’s “boot camp” military-style program.

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This is just a snippet of information included in a first-of-its-kind data report released Tuesday by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, detailing the more than 30,000 felony cases presented for prosecution in 2016.

“When I was sworn in as State’s Attorney on Dec. 1, 2016, I made a commitment to increasing the transparency and accountability of the State’s Attorney’s Office,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx wrote in the report. “This report … is an important step toward the goal of operating the most open and engaged prosecutor’s office in the country.”

The report breaks down those cases by outcome, types of offenses and sentences.

For instance, 197 homicide cases were resolved in court last year. Eighty of those suspects pleaded guilty, 85 were found guilty at trial, either by a jury or a judge, and 20 others were found not guilty.

It also looks at case outcomes by race.

Overall, 57 percent of black defendants found guilty received prison sentences. That comes in well above the totals for whites (36 percent) and Latinos (39 percent) – both of whom were far more like to be sentenced to probation (about 50 percent for each group) for their crimes than were black men and women (34 percent).

Other sentences issued in 2016 included jail time (less than one year, to be served in Cook County Jail), conditional discharges and admittance into the county’s boot camp program, which includes military-style, physical exercises and labor-intensive work. If completed, participants may have their sentenced reduced to time served.

(Cook County State's Attorney's Office)(Cook County State's Attorney's Office)

Figures released Tuesday also includes case data going back to 2011, which shows the number of both prison and probation sentences issued in Cook County last year were at their lowest level in the last six years.

“This report demonstrates the sheer volume of felony cases that are referred to our office by law enforcement, and provides important insight into what a huge undertaking it is to prosecute crime in Cook County,” Foxx said in a statement. “I am committed to expanding the SAO’s data capacity, so that we can work to prosecute crime in a manner that is fair, equitable, and just.”

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is the nation’s second-largest prosecutor’s office, serving the nation’s second-largest county. Foxx called the report “a starting point,” but she hopes the data can help her office better understand its tasks and goals moving forward.

“Not all of the news is good; nor will change be instantaneous,” Foxx said. “But as I have often said when speaking on the topic of data and transparency: you cannot fix what you cannot measure.”

Follow Matt Masterson on Twitter: @ByMattMasterson

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