New program in Elgin seeks to keep nonviolent offenders out of criminal justice system
Elgin, state's attorney's office will partner on new program
Elgin will be the first community in Illinois to participate in a new non-arrest approach to keep people out of the criminal justice system who commit crimes because they are homeless, suffering from addiction or experiencing a mental health crisis.
The Kane County state's attorney's office will partner with Elgin for the program. It is modeled off a policing strategy in Washington state that saw success in lowering the local jail population and slashing recidivism by addressing the underlying causes of some nonviolent offenses.
Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser presented the plan to the Elgin council Wednesday night. If successful, it may reduce her office's caseload by 30% to 50%, she said. There may be even greater benefits for people who get connected to social service programs they wouldn't otherwise have access to, she added.
Just the act of being arrested often leads to a person's name, photo and alleged involvement in a crime becoming widespread knowledge.
"And that can never be expunged," Mosser said. "As a result, a lot of people find themselves losing their housing, losing jobs and having problems in their families all because the root of the criminal justice issue has to do with something that is oftentimes beyond their control."
Getting people into social services avoids that stigma while still attempting to address what fueled the criminal act, she said.
Elgin police officers already are training in how to identify offenses and people eligible for the program. Any victim of an alleged crime must agree to a non-arrest solution.
"I will often talk to victims who don't understand why we're putting somebody in jail because they just want them to get help," Mosser said. "So we're giving a whole other tool to victims and making them a part of this process in a way that sometimes we're not able to in the criminal justice system."
Elgin council members unanimously welcomed the pilot program. But they also called for regular reports on the demographics of people chosen for the program versus those who are excluded. The idea is to monitor the subjective selection for possible bias by the police. Mosser's office will also do a secondary review.
If successful, Mosser plans to expand the program.