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Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans Doubles Down On Pretrial Release Policies With Regard To Young Offenders

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Deciding which suspects stay locked up as they await trial and which do not is a growing controversy in Chicago – with alarming crime rates and repeat offenders fueling the debate.

For one example, 16-year-old Emilio Corripio – now accused of pulling the trigger in the shooting that killed 8-year-old Melissa Ortega in Little Village this past weekend – was on "intensive probation" and had committed three carjackings in a span of five months. He was released on electronic monitoring each time he was arrested in those carjackings.

Much of the policy in terms of bail is decided by Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans. CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov spoke with Evans on Thursday, and he is standing by his policies.

It has been five years since Judge Evans ordered bail reform. On Thursday, while doubling down on the policy and how judges treat young, repeat offenders, Evans also did not hesitate to talk about crime in his county.

"The average resident who lives here, lives in fear," Evans told a Union League Club of Chicago assembly.

He directly addressed the county's staggering 2021 crime stats – more than 1,000 homicides, 3,800 shootings, and 1,800 carjackings in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs.

"That fear is in the forefront of all of our minds," Evans said.

But when questioned about making changes to his bail reform program, determining what suspects get out pretrial and who stays behind bars, the chief judge's directness dissipated.

"If that judge doesn't see the evidence there – no matter what the charge is – he or she might decide to release the person pretrial," Evans said.

The issue of suspect release – especially when it comes to juveniles charged with violent crimes – has been a controversial topic of late, with case after case of young offenders with violent criminal records being released.

"What do we do if we give him a chance and he goes out and hijacks a car?" Evans said. "Do we throw him away?"

So Kozlov asked the chief judge if there should be a limit to the chances.

"No, we don't give up on the kids," Evans said. "We continue to try to help them."

Evans says for adult suspects, Cook County judges use a nine-point public safety assessment to determine who gets released, in addition to 36 other factors.

One of them, Evans said, is that "the State's Attorney's office has to file the petition before a judge can order somebody to remain in jail pretrial."

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx is also on the hot seat for how her office chooses to charge and treat offenders.

She defended her policies on Wednesday, saying violence prevention, reentry programs, and accountability must be considered – especially when it comes to young offenders.

As to whether Chief Judge Evans is reviewing any of his pretrial policies, he said his office has submitted data about the nine-point public safety assessment for adult defendants to Harvard University. It is being reviewed there, and if changes are recommended, they will be considered.

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