Illinois’ plan to eliminate cash bail remains uncertain after the judge’s ruling

Illinois’ plan to eliminate cash bail remains uncertain after the judge’s ruling

  • US News
  • January 1, 2023
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Illinois’ plan to abolish cash bail earlier this year is now uncertain after a judge ruled certain provisions of the legislation were unconstitutional.

The No Cash Bail Statute, also known as the Pretrial Fairness Act, was intended to make Illinois the first state to officially abolish cash bail and require judges to decide whether an incarcerated person should be released.

Just days before the measure was due to go into effect, Chief Justice Thomas W. Cunnington of the state’s 21st judiciary circuit ruled that the bail reform and pre-trial release provisions violate the Illinois Constitution. The ruling followed a class action lawsuit filed against the legislation by sheriffs, prosecutors and dozens of Illinois counties.

The Pretrial Fairness Act is part of an update to the Republican-opposed Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity Act (SAFE-T Act) that outlines numerous reforms to pretrial detention protocols, the criminal justice system, and the policing system.

The police killing of George Floyd served as a catalyst for the SAFE-T Act, which has been in effect since February 2021. Some reforms included police training requirements, reporting and restrictions on the use of force, and filing anonymous reports against police officers and the use of body cameras.

While the fallout from Cunnington’s ruling remains uncertain, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D) said in a statement that he plans to appeal the decision directly to the Illinois Supreme Court and that all other actions of the SAFE-T -Law remain intact. Raoul also clarified that the ruling applies only to the 65 counties involved in the lawsuit and implementation of cash-free bail will continue in the other counties.

“The right of persons awaiting criminal trial – people who have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent – ​​to be released from prison without paying cash bail will come into effect in a few days, despite the court’s ruling against provisions ‘ Raoul said in the statement.

Republicans claimed that the no-cash bail measure would result in the release of “violent criminal suspects” with no assurances that they would return to the trial.

However, proponents of the no-cash-bail statute argued that it was unfair that someone with limited funds would have to remain in prison ahead of a trial while someone wealthier could be bailed out.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, more than 400,000 people are currently being held in pre-trial detention in the United States, many of whom cannot afford bail. This problem also disproportionately affects black and brown communities, which face higher rates of incarceration and poverty.

“This lawsuit and the resulting ruling are the culmination of a concerted effort to undermine reform; those attempting to denigrate these reforms are advocates of a system that has contributed to the racial injustices of mass incarceration and excessive policing of black and brown communities, which has reduced the safety, resilience and confidence of many residents,” officials from Cook County, which includes Chicago, wrote in a joint statement.

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