In March, the Office of Cook County (Chicago) State’s Attorney Kim Foxx released an unprecedented amount of raw data about how the office handles felony cases.The database is available at Cook County Government, “Open Data.”“State’s Attorney Foxx Announces Unprecedented Open Data Release,” press release (Chicago: Cook County State’s Attorney, March 2, 2018). Foxx’s office assigned unique identifiers to cases, defendants, and charges, allowing researchers and members of the public to track a single case through each stage.Cook County State’s Attorney, “Unprecedented Open Data Release,” 2018). Cook County is the second largest prosecutor’s office in the nation, handling nearly half a million cases per year.Josie Duffy Rice, “Kim Foxx Just Released Six Years of Data—Most Prosecutors’ Offices Remain Black Boxes,” The Appeal, March 7, 2018.
Foxx’s move is unusual: prosecutors’ offices rarely release data about their decisions and case outcomes. This makes it difficult in most places, if not impossible, to track the numbers of cases prosecuted and their outcomes by data points like offense type, race of the accused, or individual prosecutor. Still, there are calls for more—Foxx hasn’t released anything about the approximately 400,000 misdemeanors her office handles, nor is there any information about bail, pretrial release, or line prosecutor performance.Rice, “Kim Foxx Just Released Six Years of Data,” 2018. But advocates see it as a start. “Our work must be grounded in data and evidence,” Foxx said, “and the public should have access to that information.”Cook County State’s Attorney, “Unprecedented Open Data Release,” 2018.