Guest Speaker: Ms. Amy Campanelli, Cook County Public Defender
The Cook County criminal justice system is broken and in desperate need of repair. For at least the last three decades Illinois has gotten tough on crime by imposing draconian sentences without any discretion by the judge to sentence based on the age of the accused or his level of participation in the offense. Cook County must look to diversion courts, such as drug court, veteran’s court, mental health court and prostitution and sex trafficking court to help people with problems. Statistics show that individuals who receive intervention are less likely to recidivate. The system of mass incarceration, with excessive pre-trial bonds and post-trial sentences, disproportionately affects people of color. This causes disruption in the family structure, employment and education of the accused. As citizens of Cook County we can fix the system one step at time. The first step is to admit there is a problem.
Ms. Amy P. Campanelli was sworn in as the tenth Public Defender of Cook County on April 1, 2015. Amy's appointment was the culmination of 27 years of representing the indigent accused. She started as an assistant public defender in 1987, moving to the Felony Trial Division until 1998. Her caseload included felonies of many kinds, from low level drug cases to capital murder. After leaving the office to care for her family for five years, she returned in 2003 as an Attorney Supervisor assigned to the Felony Trial Division. Amy eventually became Capital Case Coordinator in 2010. After the death penalty was abolished in Illinois, Amy served as Deputy Chief of the Homicide Task Force and Deputy Chief of the Felony Trial Division. In 2012, she was elevated to Deputy Public Defender in charge of all five suburban districts in Cook County, a position she held until her appointment as the Public Defender. Over the years, Amy has been a frequent lecturer and trainer on mental health issues, trial advocacy, trial preparation, and therapeutic courts. Amy received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana and her Juris Doctorate from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Amy is married to Patrick Campanelli, and they have three children- Paul, Annabelle, and Emily. Amy is the second female to serve as the Public Defender.