Longtime Cook County prosecutor quits, delivers dire warning on public safety

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford

A fed-up former prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorneys office has stepped down after 20 years on the job, but not before delivering a scathing send-off email to colleagues warning that Illinois and Cook County have “set themselves on a course for disaster” with their public safety policies.


The website CWB Chicago was first to report on the resignation of Jason Poje, who left his position with the Cook County State’s Attorney last Friday, as well as his blistering missive to his former colleagues. Here’s a portion:

The simple fact is that this State and County have set themselves on a course to disaster. And the worst part is that the agency for whom I work has backed literally every policy change that had the predicable, and predicted, outcome of more crime and more people getting hurt.

Bond reform designed to make sure no one stays in jail while their cases are pending with no safety net to handle more criminals on the streets, shorter parole periods, lower sentences for repeat offenders, the malicious and unnecessary prosecution of law enforcement officers, overuse of diversion programs, intentionally not pursuing prosecutions for crimes lawfully on the books after being passed by our legislature and signed by a governor, all of these so-called reforms have had a direct negative impact, with consequences that will last for a generation.

Many years ago my family found a nice quiet corner of the suburbs. Now my son, who is only 5, hears gunfire while playing at our neighborhood park, and a drug dealer is open-air selling behind my house (the second one in two years). If it were just me to consider, I’d stick it out. I’ve been through stupid State’s Attorney policies before. But this Office’s complete failure to even think for a moment before rushing into one popular political agenda after another has put my family directly in harm’s way.

The current people in charge of this state, including the [State’s Attorney’s Office] suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding…we live in a society with adversarial court and criminal justice processes. Defense attorneys, legal aid clinics, Public Defenders, defendant advocate groups…they fight like hell to protect the rights of criminal defendants. And they should. Their work is as noble as our’s. But we have an obligation to fight like hell on behalf of the People. It should go without saying that this must be done ethically and evenhandedly. When both sides vigorously defend their positions, a balance is reached between protecting rights while preserving some sort of order and safety. Once we start doing too much of the defense’s job, once we pull our punches, once we decide that it’s worth risking citizens’ lives to have a little social experiment, that balance is lost. The unavoidable consequences are what we are witnessing in real time, an increase in crime of all kinds, businesses and families pulling up stakes, and the bodies piling up; the whole time with a State’s Attorney who insists that there is nothing to see here, and if there is it must be someone else’s fault. And then they wonder why they cannot retain experienced prosecutors or even hire new ones…it’s because any true prosecutor recognizes the importance of this balance, and that they will not be permitted to be a prosecutor under this administration.

I will not raise my son here. I am fortunate enough to have the means to escape, so my entire family is leaving the State of Illinois. I grew up here, my family and friends are here, and yet my own employer has turned it into a place from which I am no longer proud to be, and in which my son is not safe.


Poje didn’t mention the state’s new ban on so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines in his email, and I have no idea where he stands on the state’s latest gun control laws, but even if he’s a fan in theory it’s clear that they’re not enough to keep him in the state where he has called home for most of his life. As a prosecutor, Poje knows better than most that no matter what laws might be in place, if the state is turning a blind eye to or excusing away violent crime we’re likely to see more of it.

The state’s entrenched Democratic majority has taken aim at legal gun owners while “reforming” the criminal justice system in ways that cut repeat and violent offenders breaks at every turn. The result? In Poje’s words, “more criminals on the street… an increase in crime of all kinds, businesses and families pulling up stakes, and the bodies piling up.”

Poje’s not alone in making the decision to leave the state. Illinois’ population has been declining for several years now, and last year more than 60,000 people fled Cook County for a safer place to raise their families… and maybe a destination where it’s easier to protect and defend them as well.


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