Transparency into prosecutorial decision-making is critical to ensuring that a prosecutor's office is accountable to the people it serves. For example, prosecutors can use data to assess whether current policies are being applied consistently, ensure that resources are appropriately focused for fair and equitable outcomes, and develop new policies that can address community concerns, such as racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Moreover, by making their data publicly available, prosecutors can empower the public to assess information about how cases are being processed within their communities and to better understand the role of the prosecutor in the criminal legal system.
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office (SAO), one of the nation's largest prosecutor's offices, recently released data on the handling of felony cases from 2011 to present. Using the Cook County felony case data, the Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ), a non-profit criminal justice research organization, developed a data visualization that enables the public to analyze how cases prosecuted by the SAO move through the criminal legal system.
DCJ's Felony Case Processing Data Visualization Tool (see "Explore the Data" above) allows users to view outcomes at three key stages of the felony cases process:
To use the data visualization tool, select "Explore the Data" above. The Explore the Data page is organized into four tabs:
DCJ is grateful for the assistance of the Cook County SAO in responding to DCJ's questions and inquiries during the development of the Felony Case Processing Data Visualization Tool. DCJ is particularly appreciative of the assistance provided by Matthew Saniie, SAO's Chief Data Officer, and Lisa Li, SAO Data Integration Analyst.
To better understand the case processing in Cook County, please refer to:
- Case Processing Overview in Cook County, a Flowchart
- Cook County State's Attorney Data Report of 2017, with Detailed System Term Definition
- Cook County State's Attorney Data Dashboard
- Cook County State's Attorney Open Data Guide
- Cook County State's Attorney Open Data Glossary
These tables show the outcomes by percent for felony case initiated, disposition and sentence by the individual charges.
As a person's criminal case moves through the criminal justice system, the severity of the crime(s) with which that person is charged may change. In Illinois, the most serious criminal charges are class X felonies ("Fel.X") followed by class 1 felonies ("Fel.1") through class 4 felonies and class A misdemeanors ("Mis.A") through class C misdemeanors. For instance, a person who is charged with a class 2 felony may have their case resolved as a less serious charge (a class 1 felony or lower) or a more serious charge (class 3 felony or higher). This could be due to a number of reasons, such as the identification of new evidence, the grand jury finding that the facts match a different severity than initially charged, the person agrees to a plead guilty to so long as the charge is reduced, or a jury finds a person guilty of a lesser charge.
This graph and table provide two different visualizations of the same data. For the graph, on the left is the top charge when the case was initiated and on the right is charge at final disposition. For the table, on the left is the charge when the case was initiated and on the top is the charge at final disposition.
This tab provides additional details about the data and definitions related to the various stages of the Cook County felony case process presented in the Felony Case Processing Data Visualization Tool.
DCJ's Felony Case Processing Tree groups felony charges into 14 broad charge categories (e.g., the charges of "possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver" and "possession of a controlled substance" are grouped under the narcotics category). The charge categories are aligned with those the Cook County SAO created for its dashboard. DCJ's felony case processing tree includes 87.2% of the felony cases with top charges that fall into these 14 broad charge categories (charges such as "failure to register as a sex offender" that did not fit into the broad categories were excluded).
The SAO operates a Felony Review Unit ("FRU") 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Law enforcement officers call FRU to seek approval of most felony charges. FRU may respond to law enforcement's request to file felony charges in a number of ways:
After a case is filed, it can conclude in one of several ways:
After a person is found guilty or pleads guilty, the individual is sentenced by the court. The most common sentence types for felony cases include:
Data definitions are mainly derived from Cook County SAO resources including data reports, a data dashboard, data guide and glossary: