Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

Cook County Public Defender Mitigator Project

BJA Program(s): Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
State(s): IL

Grantee Agency: See below

Grant Amount/Year(s): FY 2009/$159,929

About the Program:

Through this JAG ARRA award, the Cook County Public Defender was able to hire two two full time mitigators.

The presentation of effective mitigation evidence is not discretionary, but mandated by Illinois law. Two experienced mitigators allowed them to create a mitigator internship program, in partnership with graduate programs throughout Illinois. Effective mitigators are skilled in interviewing the client, the client's family, witnesses, teachers, clergy, and medical personnel. Mitigators also explore and analyze collateral sources of information contained in medical and psychiatric records, and school records in order to solicit accurate, specific information. Mitigators are experienced in electronic and other investigation procedures. After organizing and analyzing information on the behavioral history of a defendant, mitigators then articulate the impact of social, familial, medical, and psychological influences on a defendant charged with a criminal case, particularly a serious felony case. Experienced mitigators are familiar with the nuances and lexicon of the behavioral sciences and their intersection with social/psychological pathologies and criminal acts. An experienced mitigator is a multi-dimensional specialist in various investigative and behavioral subject matters.

The mitigators utilized and trained various interns in mitigation investigations and oversee the compilation of mitigation reports for our various divisions, beginning with the Homicide Task Force and Felony Trial Divisions. The mitigators completed with each mitigation report a separate data sheet indicating the charge, the sentencing guidelines attendant upon the charge, the sentence requested by the prosecutor, the race and age of the defendant, the race and age of the victim, and the eventual sentence given by the Court after receipt and consideration of the mitigation report.

Program Successes/Effect on the Community:

The grant was able to: (1) ensure that the attorneys are complying with state and federal law; (2) fully explore legal processes that lead to alternatives to incarceration; and even (3) effectively reduce the number of people in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Learn More:
To learn more about the program, please contact:
Daynia Sanchez-Bass
Program Director
Phone: 312-603-8389

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