Illinois has become the first state to completely eliminate cash bail, a result of a push by state legislators to end a practice they say keeps poor people in jail for months awaiting trial and disproportionately affects Black and Latino defendants.
The change is part of a sweeping law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, on Monday. He said the legislation would transform the state’s legal system and increase accountability measures for police officers, such as requiring the use of body-worn cameras by police departments statewide.
“This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice,”Mr. Pritzker said in a statement.
Mr. Buckner said the legislation was the culmination of exhaustive research into the laws and practices in other states and countries. Under the new system, judges will be presented with evidence to determine what kind of risk releasing a defendant poses to the community and whether the defendant can be counted on to return to court. A judge will then determine if the person should be held in detention until trial.
This will not necessarily end all racial and class disparities in the detention system, of course — determinations about who poses a danger/flight risk can be colored by various socioeconomic factors — but preventing most pre-trial detentions is a big deal.
Meanwhile, this defense for the cash bail system is wild:
Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, said he was concerned that the elimination of cash bail would make cities and towns less safe.
Jails have become de facto centers for people suffering from mental health disorders and addiction, he said. “The only way to intervene is to arrest them and bring them to jail, where you have the opportunity to sit in a cell and get some help,” Mr. Kaitschuk said.
To the extent that there aren’t alternatives, resources currently being used to imprison people need to be used to create them!