The mission of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Assistance Unit is to enhance prosecution efforts by delivering the highest quality of services to victims and witnesses in the areas of advocacy and court support. Our outreach efforts will be immediate, and our response will be respectful, professional, thorough and consistent.
Serving victims is our highest priority and our most important obligation. Providing victims with information and social service referrals is a responsibility mandated by the Illinois Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act. Our efforts were recognized in 1999 when the U.S. Department of Justice honored us with its National Crime Victim Service Award, the only prosecutor’s office in the country to be so honored. Since then we have striven to improve in our efforts to provide victims and witnesses the most professional service we can.
We know the court process can be a confusing and frightening time. Our unit was created in 1981 with the guiding philosophy that victims should be afforded their place in the system, informed about the status of the case, supported as the legal process proceeds, and referred to outside agencies and our own support group when additional help is needed.
Our unit is one of the largest and most comprehensive prosecutor-based victim advocacy operations in the country, serving tens of thousands of victims and witnesses across the county. Specialized Units work in Juvenile court and Domestic Violence court; specialized teams work with felony Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence cases. In addition, we address the needs of the disabled, LGBTQ, and senior communities with specialists trained in the community resources and issues relating to these underserved populations. Victim-witness specialists guide victims and witnesses through the criminal justice system in 15 locations, providing court orientation, information on the Illinois Bill of Rights for Crime Victims and Witnesses as well as providing necessary support and referrals. (Specialized services are also available in Spanish and Polish.) Special courtroom tours for children and their parents can be scheduled in advance of the court date in order to familiarize the victims and witnesses with the room in which they will later testify. A typical day for a victim-witness specialist will include accompanying victims, witnesses and the families of victims to court, answering questions about the court process, assisting with the preparation of Victim Impact Statements, intervening on behalf of the victims and witnesses with landlords, employers and schools, and assisting families in seeking counseling as well as financial assistance for costs related to their victimization.
Besides providing in-person court support, victim-witness specialists co-facilitate (with a licensed therapist) three monthly support groups. The support group not only provides a needed outlet for the grief, confusion, anger, and pain that accompanies a traumatic loss, but it also offers basic court information and answers to other questions about the criminal justice system. The homicide support group is offered to adults who have lost loved ones to a homicide.
Through the office’s Programs and Development Unit, grant writers work with Victim Witness to secure funds needed to maintain and develop innovative programs designed to address the most critical needs of victims. We currently receive funding from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the Department of Homeland Security. Grant funds support approximately one half of the units’ positions and programs.
The Victim Witness Unit works with a wide range of advocates, community based organizations, and other law enforcement agencies to provide the most comprehensive system of services to victims and witnesses.
Contact the Victim Witness Assistance Unit
The Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office can be reached by:
State’s Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Assistance Unit
2650 S. California – 1st Floor
Chicago, IL 60608