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No part of Illinois sends more people to state-run prisons than Cook County.

Are these high incarceration numbers the result of a strong criminal justice system…or is there something more at play? The Chicago Reporter wants to explore the powerful interests that are driving the mass incarceration of poor people of color, and men in particular.

In our current investigation, we are exploring what effects politicking from the bench might have on sentencing patterns in Cook County Circuit Court. Through investigative reporting and data analysis we will explore:

Whether or not judges and prosecutors are driving up conviction and sentencing numbers to bolster their election campaigns;

Whether or not judges and prosecutors are more inclined to impose stiffer charges and sentences to boost their conviction stats during election years.

We plan to do a series of stories and we have all sorts of ideas for how we can tell the story of the mass incarceration of people from our own neighborhoods. That's where you, and your support, come in.

We'll use the funds you donate to elevate this series in a new way.

Our vision is to invest in creating interactive graphics that can tell the story of politicking from the bench, sentencing disparities and the toll they're taking on our city.

Our findings will be published in our May/June issue and on our website.

The Chicago Reporter has a 40-year history of award-winning investigative journalism that highlights racial and economic disparity and keeps governments and organizations honest and transparent.

Our recent work has:

Spurred a $335 million settlement—the nation’s largest fair-lending settlement—of Countrywide Financial (The New York Times).

Helped send national lender Wells Fargo to court for discriminatory lending (The Wall Street Journal)

Prompted the Chicago City Council to pass an ordinance forcing lenders to register their vacant properties (Chicago magazine).

Prompted Gov. Pat Quinn to enact new nursing home legislation.

73% funded
  • almost 3 years overdue
  • 812.27 of 812.27 credits raised


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  • 812.27 credits donated to the story
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Spot.Us is an open source project to pioneer "community powered reporting." Through Spot.Us the public can commission and participate with journalists to do reporting on important and perhaps overlooked topics. Contributions are tax deductible and we partner with news organizations to distribute content under appropriate licenses.