Chicago, IL – Later this month, Illinois is set to abolish cash bail, leading the nation in criminal justice reform. Beginning September 18th, court proceedings across the state will be transformed, as individuals charged with crimes will no longer be held in custody simply because they can’t afford bail.
The Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Pretrial Fairness Act this Summer, backed by the SAFE-T Act, will bring an end to the practice of requiring monetary bail for pretrial release. This historic ruling sends a powerful message that justice should not be determined by one’s financial means.
Under the new system, judges can only detain individuals if they are considered dangerous or a flight risk. Suspects who fall into these categories may still be subject to measures such as GPS tracking or curfews, but they will not be able to buy their release as was possible under the previous cash bail system.
The Pretrial Fairness Act clarifies that everyone is eligible for pretrial release, and it places the burden on the government to prove that someone should be detained. This shift in the burden of proof is a significant departure from the old cash bail system.
The court’s decision has not been without opposition. Law enforcement officials filed multiple lawsuits, which ultimately reached the Illinois Supreme Court. However, the court rejected these challenges, asserting that abolishing cash bail does not harm victims and falls squarely within the legislature’s power. The implications of this decision are profound.
When the law goes into effect on September 18, anyone currently jailed under a cash bail order will receive a release hearing under the new law. Illinois becomes the first state to implement a pretrial system that will never demand payment for release.
Advocates argue that ending cash bail will lead to safer communities by allowing people to remain with their families and maintain their employment, rather than being held in jail solely because they can’t pay for their freedom. This move is seen as a significant step towards reducing pretrial detention rates and addressing issues of inequality in the justice system.
While this reform was initially set to take effect on January 1, 2023, it was delayed due to legal challenges. However, the Illinois Supreme Court’s strong decision has now paved the way for a historic change in the state’s criminal justice system, setting a precedent that other states may consider following.