Last July, Michael Halikias, a Palos Park, Ill., developer was given what a federal judge in Chicago termed a “novel” sentence: a four-month stay at a Salvation Army facility, where he would help build housing for the poor. If the sentence for a confessed ring leader in a multimillion real estate fraud was unusual, the case’s duration was typical — at least for Chicago. It took a full 17 months to get from indictment to sentencing.

With cases taking almost a year and a half, the Northern District of Illinois has the second-highest median time for federal criminal prosecutions in the United States. The median time for federal prosecutions nationwide is between six and seven months. But that number has been consistently rising during the last seven years, and it’s a source of growing concern.

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