It’s incredible how some people can’t see a problem even when it’s staring them in the face.
Consider Jackson County State’s Attorney Mike Carr. During his first full year on the job, his office prosecuted just four cases out of 65 reported by the police in the county. Over the past nine years, the office accepted just 26 cases of the 163 referred by the Carbondale Police. By any objective reading, those are shocking, unacceptable numbers. And yet Carr thinks it’s unfair to use them as a measure of effective law enforcement.
Ironically, one of his reasons more cases aren’t prosecuted is paternalistic – we don’t want to revictimize the victims of sexual assault or abuse. Would he feel that way if the victim was his relative or friend? It seems to us that the real revictimization comes when prosecutors who say they believe victims’ stories won’t even try to send the assailant to prison.
Low prosecution rates are a problem throughout much of Southern Illinois, not just in Jackson County. Prosecutors need less thinking like Carr’s, and more like Saline County State’s Attorney Mike Henshaw and Assistant State’s Attorney Eva Walker. Their office prosecuted 80 percent of the cases brought to it in the same nine-year period, and won convictions in 80 percent of those. Walker, whom Henshaw calls his “secret weapon,” offers a great example of a prosecutor who looks for ways to get sex crimes cases to trial, not excuses for why it can’t be done.