November 6, 2019
Today, Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx and the University of Chicago Crime Lab hosted a discussion on the state of low-level drug offenses in Cook County and the prosecutor’s role in addressing addiction. Dan Satterberg, the Chief Prosecutor of King County in Washington, shared his experience of connecting more people to mental health and addiction treatment in lieu of incarceration. Bolstering these social services paved the way for a policy shift in his office, which no longer prosecutes most non-violent cases of possession of small amounts of illegal controlled substances.
State’s Attorney Foxx and Prosecutor Satterberg have each seen addiction up close. During the convening, both prosecutors shared how their personal experiences have shaped their views on addiction as a public health crisis and their approach to criminal justice.
“I know all too well the devastating effects of untreated mental illness and addiction, as I witnessed my mother’s personal struggles,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. “The criminal justice system is not the appropriate place to address public health issues that continue to hurt families and communities. When we simply prosecute but don’t treat the root issue, the result is an endless cycle. Today’s discussion is one of many steps my office is taking to create systemic change where those who need critical connections to treatment and services receive intervention - not incarceration.”
King County’s Chief Prosecutor Dan Satterberg added, “The war on drugs has been focused on drug users, who are some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our community. They also have a disease. If you believe it’s a disease, you should treat it like it is diabetes or cancer. We shouldn’t arrest people and put them in jail because they are sick.”
Satterberg’s successes in criminal justice reform include working in partnership with communities most impacted by crime to improve public safety. The King County Prosecutor’s Office is a founding partner in the creation of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a national model creating a compassionate response to drug-addicted people and giving police additional tools for responding to people with addiction and mental health issues.
“We have an important opportunity in Cook County to improve the way we support individuals with unmet substance abuse and mental health needs. We are encouraged by efforts already underway to reduce the criminal justice system exposure for this population and we are looking forward to continued partnership with the State’s Attorney’s Office on this work,” said Roseanna Ander, Founding Executive Director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab.
Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, representatives from the Office of the Illinois Lieutenant Governor, Chicago Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, Illinois Department of Public Health, and members of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Mental Health Advisory Board joined other public-safety officials, public health professionals, service providers, and advocates at the convening.