The public service record of Anita Alvarez contains many “firsts.” The first female and first Hispanic elected to the post of Cook County State’s Attorney, she is also the first career prosecutor to hold this important public safety position.
In her capacity as State’s Attorney, Ms. Alvarez leads the second largest prosecutor’s office in the nation, managing an office of more than 1,500 attorneys and administrative employees. Since taking office, Ms. Alvarez has made sweeping changes throughout the office implementing a bold new public safety agenda and significantly increasing community-based programming and outreach.
Under her leadership, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has led the charge across the State of Illinois in enacting many important public safety initiatives that have been signed into law. This includes a tough law that increases criminal penalties for street gang members arrested by police in possession of guns as well as a first-of-its-kind “Street Gang Rico” law that is enabling prosecutors across Illinois to apply new legal tools targeting the illegal activities and structures of gangs.
Providing effective alternatives to traditional prosecution and incarceration of non- violent offenders has also been a top priority for Alvarez, who during the course of her administration has developed and significantly expanded these innovative programs. Under her leadership, the number of alternative prosecution and sentencing courts has grown from eight to more than 30 that are currently operating within the Cook County criminal justice system. These evidence-based programs include specialized services for veterans, first time felony offenders and those with mental health needs.
State’s Attorney Alvarez has also implemented a sweeping new drug policy in Cook County that is keeping nonviolent low level repeat drug offenders out of the criminal justice system and steering them to treatment rather than traditional prosecution at the front end of the system. Under the new policy, the State’s Attorney’s Office is no longer prosecuting most cases of misdemeanor cannabis possession and is diverting Class 4 felony cannabis possession and other Class 4 controlled substance offenders to alternative programs, including a newly created drug deferred prosecution program.
In 2012, Ms. Alvarez formed the first-ever Conviction Integrity Unit in the State’s Attorney’s Office to bring a new focus to the review of post-conviction cases and those that involve questionable convictions. The unit conducts ongoing reviews and re-investigations of cases in which claims of innocence have been made or new information has been discovered about potential wrongful convictions. Following extensive conviction integrity investigations, State’s Attorney Alvarez has vacated the convictions of 13 individuals since the unit was created.
State’s Attorney Alvarez also created a first-of-its-kind Human Trafficking Initiative that works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on individuals and human trafficking groups that exploit children. She also authored the Illinois Safe Children Act, a law that enhances protections for juveniles caught in the sex trade and provides new legal tools for police and prosecutors to target those who prostitute children.
A Chicago native, Ms. Alvarez was born and raised in the Pilsen community. She received her undergraduate degree from Loyola University and obtained her Law Degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She is an avid runner, a passionate Chicago Black Hawks fan and a proud “Hockey and Soccer Mom.” Ms. Alvarez and her husband, Dr. James Gomez, are the proud parents of four children.