Kim Foxx loves living in Flossmoor.
Foxx, Cook County’s State’s Attorney, says her house, and her neighborhood, provide a respite from workdays filled with a constant litany of violent behavior and the pain that it brings.
“It’s idyllic. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Foxx told the H-F Chronicle.
“With the job that I have and the level of stress that comes with the work that I do, there is something about pulling onto my tree-lined street, watching kids play and the comfort that the community gives me when I see so much of the world that is discomforting during the day.”
The Chronicle asked Foxx to share her story – her early life in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project, influential people, her years as an advocate for crime victims and her goals as Cook County’s ranking law enforcement official. It’s a story that continues to unfold every day as Foxx’s office deals with the heartache that follows senseless violence across the Chicago area.
First, though, it is clear that Foxx has found a home in the H-F community. After her initial visit to the 1927 house she and her husband would buy, Foxx said she knew Flossmoor was the right community for her family.
As it turns out, she made her visit on the day of Flossmoor Fest, and was delighted to see all the activity in the downtown area. She watched potential neighbors, young and old, mingling and enjoying themselves, happy to be together on a summer day.
“As a mom of two young kids who was contemplating a potential political run, I wanted to be in a community that has good schools, is diverse and is near family,” Foxx said. “I knew I would need a strong family support system.”
Flossmoor might seem a world away from the housing project where Foxx spent her earliest years. She credits her mother with instilling the idea that she would be able to reach her goals in life.
“My mother did not graduate from high school,” Foxx said. “She had two children by her senior year and was focused on raising my brother and me. She said we could do and be anything that we wanted.”
Foxx, at an early age, told her mother that she wanted to be a lawyer. “My mother said ‘you’re going to be lawyer.’ That was never a notion that I wouldn’t be.”
Foxx’s mother moved her family to Lincoln Park so that her children could go to a better school. “She did that to give us the support that would make it possible,” Foxx said.
During her junior and senior year at Lincoln Park High School, Foxx was a member of the mock trial team.
“We would go up against other schools on fictitious cases, sometimes criminal, sometimes civil,” she said. “We’d have to do a direct examination, a cross examination and a closing argument. Mr. Carey taught the law class. I was very into it.”
After law school, Foxx briefly worked for an insurance company before taking a job with the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office representing children in foster care situations.
She did that for three years, then moved to the state’s attorney’s office, where she served as a prosecutor for 12 years. During that time she was both an assistant state’s attorney and worked in supervisory positions. Much of her work was in juvenile law and included child protection and prosecuting children charged with felonies and misdemeanors. She worked in the sex crime unit and targeted persons in a position of trust – coaches, priests, teachers – accused of abusing children.
Before being elected state’s attorney in 2016, Foxx served as chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, 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.
“When we talk about crime, and particularly violent crime, I don’t think people appreciate that the outcomes are awful when someone is killed or horribly abused,” Foxx said. “Also, there is something incredibly jarring about watching a young person do it. There is something completely amiss when you see 13- or 14-year-olds pulling triggers or engaging in violent behavior. You wonder: ‘How did we get here?’”
Foxx was asked how she talks to young people accused of crimes when she is both prosecutor and someone who wants to help them.
“I try to express to them that where they are now is not where they will always be,” Foxx said. “I think back over my life and some of the difficulties that I had and that they were all-consuming. It’s what you know. My grandmother had a phrase where she would say, ‘keep living,’ and in that you realize that the older you get that seasons change, circumstances change.
“If you handcuff yourself to the worst thing that has happened to you, you miss out on the potential for growth. What I tried to tell young people when I was in juvenile court is that you have done something bad and you have to be accountable for it, you have to accept responsibility. The question is, does this define you for the rest of your life?”
Foxx knows there are no easy answers but believes more steps are needed so that young people don’t turn to violence as the way to solve their problems.
Early intervention is needed, she says. Mentoring programs can be enormously helpful. Restorative justice programs can point to an alternative other than the juvenile court system. Sports programs are important but often too expensive for the communities where they are needed the most.
Juvenile justice is “the best place we can work on crime prevention,” Foxx says.