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The correct response to violent crime? Believe it or not, we're seeing it in Cook County.
We have seen the results of responding with a level head and a commitment to fairness, and we are confident that our community can and will do even more by taking that path in working to protect public safety.

Friday, February 21, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by REV. MICHAEL EADDY

With murders on the rise in 2017 and President Donald Trump telling the world that “Chicago is out of control,” Cook County elected leaders and others with a role in its justice system worked together to determine what needed to be done to make our neighborhoods safer.

Public discussion about how to respond took place in an atmosphere of resolve and sometimes intense debate over how to reduce the number of shootings. For some, the only answer was a call for more of the same — more police, even federal troops, and longer prison sentences. These suggestions ignored the need for better policing, not just more cops, and for a fairer justice system.

Rather than dialing up the rhetoric or looking for quick fixes, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Timothy C. Evans, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and other stakeholders took actions based on what research showed could bring results. They reallocated scarce resources from felony prosecutions of petty offenses to a focus on prosecuting gun crimes. They reformed the operation of the bond court. And they worked to divert non-violent people away from jail and to the mental health and drug addiction treatment that they need.

The results have been substantial reductions both in violent crime in Chicago and in the population of the Cook County Jail. Since 2017, the daily population in the Cook County Jail has dropped from about 8,000 to 6,000 at the same time that violent crime has trended downward.

Without fanfare, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation got involved early on to support the reforms being implemented by our public officials, with a MacArthur grant of nearly $2 million to propel and study the impact of those reforms.

MacArthur didn’t just want to see fewer people in jail and a reduction of gun violence in Chicago. The foundation wanted to help other jurisdictions learn from Cook County’s experience and to make certain people are getting services that will help keep them out of jail in the future — permitting them to go to work and make our neighborhoods safer.

All of us, of course, have more to do, and MacArthur has faith in Chicago and Cook County leaders to continue to improve the fairness of our justice system and to help other cities and counties duplicate the affordable solutions that are working in Cook County. The foundation recently announced a second grant of $2.5 million to Cook County from its Safety and Justice Challenge initiative.

The new funding will help Cook County:

• Take a closer look at the cases of those in jail unable to afford even low dollar bail amounts;

• Provide job search assistance to nonviolent defendants accused of drug offenses; and

• Make mentors available to repeat arrestees with mental health or substance abuse issues.

Like the MacArthur Foundation we have seen the results of responding with a level head and a commitment to fairness, and we are confident that our community can and will do even more by taking that path in working to protect public safety.

Rev. Michael Eaddy is senior pastor of the People's Church of the Harvest Church of God in Christ and a member of the Chicago Police Board. John A. McLees is a retired partner at Baker McKenzie and volunteer with Incarceration Reform.



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