Expert Panel on IL’s New Criminal Justice Reform Initiative
Criminal Justice Reform: Finding Solutions and Fairness in Illinois
Meet our panel
Derrick Blakley spent 41 years as a television news reporter and anchor, including 32 years covering the people of Chicago and their stories. A five-time Emmy Award winner at Chicago’s WMAQ-TV and WBBM-TV, Blakley served as an anchor, political reporter and general assignment reporter.
In addition, he spent seven years as a CBS news correspondent, covering developments around the country and around the world while based in Chicago, London and Bonn, Germany. Blakley began his TV reporting career at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio, and broke into journalism at the Chicago Tribune. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and a master's in communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. represents the 17th District, which includes portions of Cook, Will and Kankakee Counties. He has been in the Senate for over three years. Prior to that, he was a member of the House of Representatives for six years. Senator Sims is the lead budgeteer for the Senate Democrats and Chairman of the Appropriations Committee along with Vice-Chair of the Criminal Law Committee. Some of his top priorities include public safety, education and economic development.
Kimberly M. Foxx is the first African American woman to lead the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country. Kim took office on December 1, 2016 with a vision for transforming the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office into a fairer, more forward-thinking agency focused on rebuilding the public trust, promoting transparency, and being proactive in making all communities safe.
As Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim has undertaken substantial criminal justice reforms focused on public safety and equity. She has revamped the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, resulting in overturned convictions in over 80 cases, including the first-ever mass exoneration in Cook County for 15 men whose convictions stemmed from misconduct by a Chicago Police Officer. She has been a leader in bond reform, instructing prosecutors to agree to recognizance bonds where appropriate, and reviewing bond decisions in cases where people are detained because they are unable to pay bonds of $1,000 or less. Kim has taken the lead on prioritizing resources away from low-level offenses to focus on violent crime, including raising the threshold for approving felony charges for retail theft to $1,000, and declining to prosecute misdemeanor traffic offenses for failure to pay tickets and fines. Kim played a vital role in passing legislation to legalize cannabis and provide the broadest and most equitable conviction relief possible. Providing this relief is not only a critical part of righting the wrongs of the failed war on drugs that disproportionately harmed communities of color; it is also a statement of her values and commitment to justice for all.
Kim is the first and only prosecutor in the country to make felony case-level data available to the public. The open data portal provides unprecedented access and transparency into the work of a prosecutor’s office. Her goal is to make the Cook County the most transparent prosecutor’s office in the country.
Kim served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for 12 years, and was also a guardian ad litem, where she worked as an attorney advocating for children navigating the child welfare system. Prior to being elected State’s Attorney, Kim served as Chief of Staff for the Cook County Board President, where she was the lead architect of the county’s criminal justice reform agenda to address racial disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Born and raised in Cabrini Green on Chicago’s Near North Side, Kim is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and a J.D. from the SIU School of Law.
Bob has been a career prosecutor for 33 years. He began his career in 1987 as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County. In 2001, Mr. Berlin left the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to become the First Assistant State’s Attorney for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office. Then, in 2004, Bob began working for the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office as Deputy Chief of the Office’s Juvenile Division. During the next several years, Mr. Berlin was promoted to Deputy Chief of the Felony Trial Division and Chief of the Criminal Bureau.
He was appointed DuPage County State’s Attorney in December 2010 and was elected to a full four-year term in 2012, 2016, and again in 2020. In his 33-year career as a prosecutor, Mr. Berlin has tried 87 felony jury trials, 58 of which involved first degree murder. Mr. Berlin has also tried hundreds of felony bench trials, including more than 50 homicide cases. Mr. Berlin has earned numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including the Illinois State Crime Commission’s State’s Attorney of the Year Award in 2013, the Education Center’s “Making a Difference Award” in 2011, the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation Board of Directors’ Trial Award in 2003 and the Kane County Outstanding Prosecutor Award in 2004. He is a frequent lecturer on a variety of criminal justice issues and has participated in numerous heroin education forums throughout DuPage County. Mr. Berlin has also testified before the Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee and Illinois House Judiciary Committee on numerous criminal justice bills.
Eric Rinehart was elected as the first Democratic Lake County State's Attorney in 44 years. Eric successfully ran on a platform of reform that highlighted the need to make Lake County safer while also eliminating racial and economic disparities in our courthouse.
Eric went to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois and graduated in 1998. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School in 2001, Eric worked at the civil litigation firm of Schopf & Weiss for two years where he learned the importance of a commitment to excellence in legal analysis and courtroom presentation. In 2003, Eric started working in Lake County at the public defender’s office.
From 2003 to 2008, Eric handled hundreds of criminal cases on behalf of the indigent of Lake County. From 2008 until his recent election, Eric worked with his law partner Kevin Malia in private practice where they continued to focus on criminal cases and DCFS matters. Over his career, Eric has been the first chair on over 70 jury trials that went to verdict and has argued in the appellate and Supreme Courts of Illinois.
Eric lives in Highwood with his wonderful wife Stephanie and their two rambunctious twins, Sam and Teddy.
Jacqueline M. Lacy earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, cum laude, from Western Illinois University in 1998 and her Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School in 2002. She is licensed as an attorney in the State of Illinois. Jacqueline Lacy is the current Vermilion County State’s Attorney and has held that position since December 2016.
In her professional association, she is currently appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions-Criminal Section. She was also appointed and participated in the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices Subcommittee. She is currently a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, Illinois State’s Attorney Association (current at large member of board), Vermilion County Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the National Rifle Association.
Chosen as one of Central Illinois Business Magazine’s “Forty under 40” in 2014, Ms.Lacy was selected in 2015 as a Patriotic Employer Award recipient from the Department of Defense. Ms. Lacy is also a 2016 Edgar Fellow.
David Olson is a Professor in the Criminal Justice and Criminology Department at Loyola University Chicago, and is also the Co-Director of Loyola’s interdisciplinary Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice. For nearly 20 years, Dr. Olson worked at the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, where he was the director of Illinois’ Statewide Drug and Violent Crime Control Strategy Impact Evaluation Program and was responsible for overseeing the evaluation and monitoring of federally funded drug and violent crime control efforts in the State of Illinois.
During his 30+ years in the field of criminal justice, David has worked with a variety of federal, state and local agencies to develop and evaluate programs and policies, particularly in the area of community and institutional corrections. During his career has served as staff to, or been appointed to, a number of Illinois commissions and task forces established to address crime and incarceration.
Dr. Olson current serves on the advisory boards of the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority through separate gubernatorial appointments, and was recently appointed to the Illinois Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program (R3) Board and the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices Implementation Task Force.
Dr. Olson received his B.S. in Criminal Justice from Loyola University Chicago, his M.A. in Criminal Justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his Ph.D. in Political Science/Public Policy Analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was the recipient of the Assistant United States Attorney General’s Graduate Research Fellowship.
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