Examine the Racial and Ethnic Breakdowns of Every Criminal Charge in Cook County over Nearly Two Decades

The Circuit: Over 18 years, 61% of all criminal charges were filed against Black people, even though only about 23% of the county’s population is Black. In our latest update to our collaborative investigation, the BGA, Injustice Watch and DataMade break down more than 3 million criminal charges by race, ethnicity and gender.

It’s been an echoing declaration from community members and advocates: The Cook County criminal justice system has disproportionately affected Black communities.

Now data is reinforcing those concerns.

In our latest update to The Circuit, we have broken down the race, ethnicity and gender of more than 3 millions criminal charges in Cook County between 2000 and 2018. 

Among our biggest takeaways: Of the more than 3 million criminal cases filed in Cook County between 2000 and 2018, more than 61% were filed against Black people, even though only about 23% of the county’s population is Black. That percentage is much higher for some charges. Research suggests the disparity has more to do with social inequity than an inherent link between race and criminality.

This is the latest piece of the Better Government Association’s ongoing collaboration with Injustice Watch and DataMade, which we launched in October with the idea of examining decades of overlooked data and their connecting patterns buried in the files of the Cook County courts.

There’s so much more to be discovered from this demographical data that can better help all of us understand how the Cook County courts work. Stay tuned for more stories and analysis from The Circuit team over the coming months.

And don’t think this is only for us to explore. We encourage you to take a look for yourself and learn more about the project. Share with us any insights or questions you may have about the data. If you have any stories to share about the Cook County criminal court system, we want to hear from you. 

Numbers aren’t the story. People are.

Read more.