Governor JB Pritzker signed a criminal justice and police reform bill earlier this year, ending cash bail in Illinois and introducing new “police accountability” protocols.
But how will the reforms affect Chicago’s longstanding violence problem – if at all?
The law “increases accountability and transparency in law enforcement, modernizes our bail and conviction systems, and provides better protection and more humane treatment of those arrested and accused.”
Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx has called this a “step in the right direction”.
“Right now we are well placed with the law, we really just have to work to make the church feel safe to come and help us solve these problems,” she said.
In an interview with NBC 5, Foxx admitted that her office is a target of criticism.
“We have to remind people that we are actually the last responders,” she explained. “At the point our office is involved, a crime has already been committed, the police have been investigating, making an arrest and bringing it to us.”
Illinois House Republican chairman Rep. Jim Durkin, a former prosecutor, said he did not support criminal justice reforms such as bail reform. Durkin added that he had followed up on how murder cases are being handled.
“At least a hundred people charged with first degree murder who were in the Cook County Jail have been released through electronic surveillance,” he said. “I don’t understand at all.”
Some say Indiana is being blamed for the supply of guns that fuel Chicago’s violence, in part because of the state’s less restrictive gun laws.
“Our Indiana laws regulate rightful gun owners,” said Indiana Senator Jack Sandin, an Indianapolis Republican. “I think we have good laws in Indiana.”
When it comes to the fight against crime, Cook County’s public defender Sharone Mitchell said more emphasis should be placed on why people commit crimes and why they feel they must be armed.
“We believe there is a zero-sum game between reform and security, and that’s just not true,” she said.
We believe there is a zero-sum game between reform and security and that is simply not true.
Lance Williams, a professor at Northeastern Illinois University who focuses on downtown studies, says Chicago is not hopeless, but change is needed.
“…[Chicago] just has to prioritize its resources to survive and not just think about the politics of a decision, ”he said.
The pendulum has swung in the direction of reform, but will it last?
“It’s going to swing back, the public won’t take it,” said Durkin.
“It’s not that the pendulum is swung too far, it’s… did what we did work? What does the data show us, and if we do something wrong, we fix it, ”said Foxx.