Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine released a budget testimony on January 24, 2005, asserting his responsibility to balance available resources without compromising vital services of the Office. He also declared the willingness of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to collaborate with the Board of Commissioners to achieve objectives with this year’s budget allocations.
Discussing the challenges faced by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Mr. Devine noted that the budget for the Fiscal Year of 2005 would be particularly challenging, as it has been affected by the revenue shortages through the past several years. State’s Attorney Devine mentioned the thirty positions lost by the Office in the previous year, including the significant decrease in the number of Assistant State’s Attorneys, having an even lower number of ASA’s this year, than in 1997. Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine also stated in his budget testimony the massive cut of over $800,000 on the budget for non-personnel accounts that are allocated for extraditions, hiring of experts for trial, and protection of witnesses, which are all vital services the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office provides. This number was also reported to be significantly lower than it was back in 2001.
Through the years of experiencing reduced budgets, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as led by State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine has pushed through by reflecting on the current system and making necessary adjustments such that new initiatives and current efforts are put to maximized efficiencies. As a result, cost-saving measures were identified by the office, including the dismissal of several employees to decrease the number of staff performing a specific task; however, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office faces a serious challenge of managing the substantial amount of caseload brought to the criminal justice system of the Office.
With the role of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to hold criminals accountable for their offenses and, ultimately, to uphold public safety and provide a sense of community to the citizens of the County, the work of the Office remains vital to the community. In line with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s role to bring justice, State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine asserts that the Office will pursue a quicker and more efficient prosecution process. As such, prosecutors of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office are to now ensure that cases are ready for trial as soon as possible, in order to prevent having cases piled up and stretch out to over two years pre-trial. To put more importance and urgency on the matter, State’s Attorney Devine sent a letter to the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division and the Public Defender on January 18, 2005, to collaborate on the oldest cases and providing a tight schedule for each of the prosecutions.
Along with a great deal of caseload the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is currently working on, the Office is also faced with other demands for services, including working on providing new efforts to combat identity theft – one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country. Additionally, different Units of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, including the Special Prosecutions Bureau and the Narcotics Bureau, have Assistant State’s Attorney’s assigned to work closely with the Chicago Police Department for a joint response to major gang entities in Chicago. With these current goals and new set objectives such as increasing the number of street-corner conspiracy investigations, State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine reveals the true narrative behind the efforts of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. He mentions that there is only a total of 12 Assistant State’s Attorneys working on the labor-intensive investigations with the Chicago Police Department.
“We have a total of twelve ASAs doing this work. They put in long hours because the demands of the job far outstrip our resources. And now it will get worse. We should be adding prosecutors to this unit, but instead, we will at best hold the line,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine.
The State’s Attorney for the Cook County continued to express his concerns in the budget allocations for the County government and spoke of the labor that is forced upon the ASAs that are simply asked to cover too many responsibilities to continue providing service to the public. State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine said, “we are seriously stretched now. There is little give in the budget we have, and at some point, something will snap. The unfortunate part is that a snap in our office can directly affect the quality of justice provided to the people of this community.”
Asserting the Cook County’s Mission to uphold public safety and health care, State’s Attorney Devine notes the importance of maximizing resources, while identifying essential functions that the Office performs and determining what is necessary to provide for that service. As such, State’s Attorney Devine suggests that the officials shall be prepared to review on a line-by-line basis the budget allocations being made. He affirms that when the Cook County does so, an honest and sensible approach will be attained with regards to the determining of which projects are to be supported, always with the goal to serve the people in mind.
In addition to the citation of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s accomplishments through the nine years led by State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine, misunderstandings were also cleared by Mr. Devine. He contends that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office had not added 49 positions in the budget for the Fiscal Year 2005. He explained that this was a reflection of a reduction of six employees from the prior years and further declared that they have neither asked for nor received an extra budget for any additional employees.
Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine thanked the County Administration and the County Board for the included $3 million budget allocation for the founding of a computer system in the Criminal Bureau of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The advancement in the Criminal Bureau’s computer system will surely reflect upon the justice process provided by the Office, as it should allow the Criminal Bureau to ensure that all necessary documents from the police departments are retrieved and forwarded adequately to the defendants. Beyond these, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is committed to working with the County Administration and County Board to attain goals and manage responsibilities by proper budget allocations to, ultimately, improve the justice system and quality of life provided to the community.
Updated: September 14, 2020