Illinois Becomes 1st State In America To End Cash Bail: 5 Things To Know

Illinois Becomes 1st State In America To End Cash Bail: 5 Things To Know



In a groundbreaking move, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to abolish cash bail by implementing the Pretrial Fairness Act, a part of the broader SAFE-T Act.

In January 2021, the Illinois legislature passed the Pretrial Fairness Act with the law slated to go in place September 2023. The Act ends the use of money bond as a means for release and will potentially keep people from being incarcerated while awaiting trial.

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, commonly known as the SAFE-T Act, is a state of Illinois statute enacted in 2021 that makes a number of reforms to the criminal justice system, affecting policing, pretrial detention and bail, sentencing, and corrections.

This monumental shift is set to reshape the criminal justice system; here are five things to know.

1. About the no-bail act

The Pretrial Fairness Act, embedded within the SAFE-T Act, has brought an end to the age-old practice of imposing cash bail in Illinois. Effective Sept. 18, this act has set in motion a transition toward, what justice reform experts claim, will be a more equitable and fair legal system.

“So today in Illinois, we mark where people will be able to keep their jobs, stay in their homes, maintain custody of their children while they await their trial,” Tanya Watkins with Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation said, ABC 7 reported.

2. Historic move

Illinois has become the first state in the U.S. to abolish cash bail with the implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act.

Various other states and cities are implementing measures to reduce the reliance on cash bail and prioritize a fairer.

3. Delays and challenges against bail reform

The journey to eliminate cash bail in Illinois has been paved with extensive delays and legal challenges. Some prosecutors and law enforcement leaders said that this change might lead to the release of individuals who could be potential threats to the community.

“We feel very strongly that it is a serious public safety issue,” Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, told ABC 7 on why he opposed the act. “At the same time, we want to join in the fight toward reforming bail.”

4. Fairness and Justice

The driving force behind the elimination of cash bail is to create a fairer and more just system. Advocates of criminal justice reform argue that individuals should not be detained simply because they cannot afford to pay bail.

Shannon Ross was arrested in Chicago for weapons charges a few years ago and could not afford bail.

“My bond was $75,000; $7,500 to walk,” Ross told ABC 7.

Since he could not make bail, Ross was forced to stay in the Cook County jail for four and a half months for a crime he ultimately didn’t commit. When he at last went to court, Ross was found not guilty.

According to a 2022 report by the US Commission on Civil Right, 60 percent of defendants end up in jail awaiting trial because they can’t afford to post bail, Bloomberg reported.

5. How no bail works

Under the new system, if a prosecutor believes someone poses a risk to the community, they bring that before a judge. The judge makes the determination whether someone should stay in custody or be released.

People arrested for violent crimes are likely to be detained by a judge.

“What is so fearful of having a system that is fair and just? What is so disarming about making sure people are not detained because they are poor,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. “I can assure you that the Cook County State’s Attorneys Office stands ready to implement the Pretrial Fairness Act.”

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-balance-scale-on-a-table-6077861/