Kim Foxx is the first African American woman to serve as Cook County State’s Attorney. Covering all of Chicago, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is the second largest prosecutor’s office in the US. Kim was elected in a hotly contested election on a platform of criminal justice reform and to working with the public to restore confidence and trust in the criminal justice system and increase public safety. She recently received the 2018 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award, which “honors a woman who demonstrates the sort of commitment to community, dedication to women and families, and determination and civility that have been the highlights of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ career, in and out of office.” Kim Foxx is the ideal honoree for this award, having spent her entire career in public service working to improve her community and the lives of the families who live there.
Born to a teenage mother who struggled to make ends meet, and raised in Chicago’s Cabrini Green public housing complex by her mother and grandmother, Kim’s life experiences have given her a deep understanding of the impact of crime, violence, and poverty on our communities. That consciousness has fueled her to pursue a career in public service as she has sought to improve life in communities like the one in which she was raised. At Lincoln Park High School, she pushed herself to take honors classes, even when she was living at a homeless shelter with her mother. Kim excelled in school and went on to earn both her B.A. and law degree from Southern Illinois University.
After an exemplary early career in public service, she decided to run for Cook County State’s Attorney at a time when violent crime rates were high in Chicago, and when public confidence in the criminal justice system was low. In Dec. 2016, when she was sworn into office, she issued a public letter setting out her ambitious agenda for addressing the issues facing Cook County and Chicago.
Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“The core work of the State’s Attorney’s Office is and always will be addressing crime and achieving justice for victims. The urgency of this work is clear. Last month, Chicago saw its 700th homicide of the year; more than 3,300 more people have been victims of non-fatal shootings. I am committed to working tirelessly with stakeholders across the justice system to address the tragedy of gun violence, including combating gun trafficking and developing data-driven prosecution of gun cases.
“But public safety isn’t simply achieved through aggressive enforcement and incarceration. We must also invest in efforts to address the underlying drivers of much of our non-violent crime, including mental illness, addiction, and lack of economic opportunity. Community courts, specialty courts and diversion programs are important tools in our efforts to reduce recidivism, use taxpayer dollars more efficiently and make our streets safer. We will continue to evaluate and expand effective alternative programs as part of our broader public safety strategy.
“Finally, we cannot ignore the reality that lack of trust in the justice system, and perceptions of the unfairness of the State’s Attorney’s office, undermine our best efforts to protect public safety. In order to achieve the progress we need, we must tackle those issues of trust head on. I am committing to the people of Cook County that we will embrace transparency as a critical element of reform. We will acknowledge and confront racial disparities in a system that too often perpetuates injustice. And we will be proactive in engaging with our communities – improving how we work with victims, publicly distributing information about our efforts, collaborating with new partners and stakeholders, and developing a two-way dialogue with the community.”
She is executing a plan to achieve these goals, including, among other things, operating community justice centers designed to engage prosecutors in partnering with police, businesses, schools, social service organizations, and other groups so that they not only prosecute cases, but so that prosecutors also “solve public safety problems, prevent crime, and improve the quality of life for communities.” You can check out more about Kim and about her innovative initiatives here: https://www.cookcountystatesattorney.org/
In 2016, Kim was the keynote speaker at the SIU Law commencement ceremony (thus, the photo). I was incredibly impressed by her kindness and humility, and by her inspiring and moving speech.