2020 State’s Attorney Questionnaire

 

1.  Do you support stopping the prosecution of low level, non-violent drug offenses? Why or why not? 

This is no coincidence. Our criminal justice system has treated drug offenders, non-violent, and the mentally ill as if they are violent offenders. When I took office, we decided a change needed to take place.

We prioritized violent crime and keeping our communities safe, rather than using resources to prosecute non-violent, low-level offenders. In shifting the priorities we refused to prosecute retail theft under $1,000 as a felony so that we could put more resources into actually pursuing violent crimes that are making our communities unsafe. Additionally, we look to seek diversion sentencing, when appropriate, for low-level non-violent offenses versus a jail sentence. To be clear, we are still holding everyone accountable, but we must continue to prioritize violent crimes which still have the largest impact on public safety.

 

2. Do you support closing Homan Square Detention Center? Why or why not? 

I support Constitutional policing practices. I don’t believe that having facilities that deny the accused access to counsel, or engage in unconstitutional police practices should exist. 

 

3. Do you support bringing criminal charges against police officers who falsify or file misleading official reports? Why or why not? 

Yes, Police officers should be investigated and prosecuted in the same way that all defendants are prosecuted. 

 

4. Do you support expunging ALL cannabis convictions? Why or why not? 

I believe we should not continue to criminalize low-level non-violent cannabis convictions. Before the first ever legalized cannabis product was sold on January 1, 2020, in December we made sure that we were moved to expunge over 1,000 low-level marijuana offenders, offering them the fresh start they deserve. There are still hundreds of thousands of low-level marijuana convictions that still need to be expunged. We have to admit that the war on drugs failed and over criminalized, black brown and poor communities, and make sure we are vigilant in correcting those wrongs.

 

5. Do you support reinstating a parole system for Illinois residents? Why or why not? 

I support reinstating parole time to allow an opportunity to assess an inmates ability to re-enter the community and be released. Simply relying on “good time credit” often times leads to people being incarcerated well beyond any useful purpose. An ongoing review is in the interest of ensuring that people are not needlessly incarcerated.

 

6. Do you support ending the incarceration of youth (ages 25 and under)? Why or why not? 

Incarceration should be used as a measure of last resort for “youthful offenders” (under 25). I believe that several factors must be evaluated, including the nature of the offense, the availability of resources in the community, and the individual needs of the defendant. 

 

 

1.  Do you support stopping the prosecution of low level, non-violent drug offenses? Why or Why not? 

We have a mass incarceration problem in Cook County where a disproportionate number of nonviolent offenders suffering from mental illness or substance abuse are being locked away and left there because they can’t afford to pay their bail; even right now, there are hundreds of people sitting in the county jail with bail amounts of $1,000 or less. Those charged with drug possession do not pose a threat to their communities and should not have their freedom taken away. If elected State’s Attorney, I plan to significantly increase the use of drug courts and diversion programs so that we are putting our resources towards rehabilitating these individuals and strengthening our communities. This shift in drug prosecution policy is part of the comprehensive criminal justice reform plan my campaign will be releasing shortly.

 

2. Do you support closing Homan Square Detention Center? Why or why not? 

Homan Square’s history of racial discrimination, oppressive conditions, civil rights abuses and inhumane treatment – often towards those who committed only low-level drug offenses – is a stain on our justice system. Homan Square absolutely should be shut down for its practices, but that isn’t enough – we need to make sure we never let another “black site” like Homan Square fester in our community. When the U.S. Department of Justice announced an investigation into Chicago’s policing practices, Cook County explicitly requested a review of Homan Square, but the facility wasn’t even mentioned in the final report. I think auditing the center in a publicly accountable and transparent way is necessary so that we all understand what was done and why it can’t happen again.

 

3. Do you support bringing criminal charges against police officers who falsify or file misleading official reports? Why or why not? 

Cook County residents have lost faith in their State’s Attorney because a well-connected individual filed false police reports and then walked away without prosecution, while average citizens have their lives overturned for the exact same charge. Why wouldn’t we hold our own police to the laws they enforce? More importantly, we have long struggled with disproportionate prosecution and incarceration of racial and other minorities due to bias at every step of the justice system; if we ignore officers who are carrying out their own vision of justice, we are only perpetuating those inequities. As an Assistant State’s Attorney, I prosecuted corrupt police officers who broke the public trust and I will continue to live that value as State’s Attorney.

 

4. Do you support expunging ALL cannabis convictions? Why or why not? 

I support our state’s current policy of expunging low-level marijuana convictions and it should be expanded to felony amounts of greater than 30 grams as well. I also believe we should use it as a model for efficiently expunging other types of crime going forward. If elected I look forward to discussing how to build on this success with the legislature and partners in the community.

 

5. Do you support reinstating a parole system for Illinois residents? Why or why not?

We have a mass incarceration problem that has led to prison overcrowding and overlong sentences for over-prosecuted crimes. I support the state’s move last year to reinstate discretionary parole options for young offenders, and I am open to expanding that further. I don’t think this is a binary issue. One of my concerns when it comes to bail and probation is the common use of technical offenses to put someone back behind bars; unsurprisingly, these minor violations may not be prosecuted evenly and can end up broadening racial disparities in incarceration. I do not want to reinstate discretionary parole only to see it become another tool for the privileged to walk away while minority and disadvantaged groups are left behind. I think reinstating or expanding parole should be part of a larger conversation about how we implement criminal justice reforms.

 

6. Do you support ending the incarceration of youth (ages 25 and under)? Why or why not? 

Part of the struggle in properly addressing youth criminal activity is making sure it doesn’t become adult criminal activity as a result. Over-prosecuting juveniles or young adults and loading up their criminal record is more likely to disrupt their lives, keep them from becoming productive members of society, and result in recidivism and escalation. In most cases, our focus should be on well-funded diversion programs and other forms of intervention, rather than throwing the book at them. There are some cases where incarceration of young criminals may be a necessary outcome, but it should never be a default.