Illinois Eliminates Cash Bail

Setting the stage for a significant overhaul of its criminal justice system, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a 700 page bill that he called a step toward “dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities..”   Safia Samee Ali of NBC News reports that the bill HB 3653 gives more rights to suspects, places new requirements on policing and eliminates cash bail for most arrestees, which supporters term “wealth-based detention.”  While law enforcement groups have opposed the elimination of cash bail, NPR reports that supporters point to studies that show little-to-no increase in crime caused by the near elimination of cash bail in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

This comes as data from across Cook County shows record breaking increases in violent crime. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed 875 gun related homicides in 2020, breaking the previous record of 838 set in 1994. The office released the grim statistic along with other preliminary case data for 2020 Friday.  The office handled a total of 970 homicides in 2020. That’s a more than 40% increase over 2019’s total of 675. Black people were the victims of 78% of homicides and Latinos accounted for more than 16% of homicide deaths.  It looks a lot like there is an alarming systemic racism problem with regard to homicide victims, caused by a high number of criminals  allowed to avoid incarceration until they kill somebody.  Not exactly the right time to restrict proactive policing and let arrestees walk with no bail.

3 Responses

  1. Steve Milani says:

    The bill creats a bianary system, no bail or pretrial release. The judge considers the seriousness of the offense, flight risk, strength of the evidence and danger to the community with the burden on the state to justify holding a person with no bond. There is, with a few exceptions, a presumption in favor of pretrial release. I think the bill brings some honesty to bond proceedings, prosecutors need to request a defendant be held until trial and put forth evidence and argument to justify it. Its much better than the court setting some arbitrary cash bond on low level offense that often amounts to only a wink to the protections afforded under the 8th ammendment. Nothing wrong with requiring evidence to justify punishing someone prior to conviction.

  2. I don’t disagree with your premise. Cash bail should be tailored to the arrestee. My problem is how the new rules work in practice. If they don’t take a hard look at the priors and affiliations of the suspect and just look at the current offense, quite a few bad actors walk. This blog is filled with examples of what happens when habitual offenders get a free pass. In my experience things turn out better when the system errs on the side of protecting the public.

  3. Steve Milani says:

    Things turn out better when we detain the right defendants pretrial, prosecutors can make this happen, not so much when they ask for a cash bond for low level offenses; which is how the old rules worked in reality. There are myriad examples of people suffering great consequences because they couldn’t make cash bail, they are not featured on this blog as that is not your focus. Is a cash bond on a nonviolet case really necessary to protect the public, or does it serve some other purpose? When the default position is cash bond, due process and the presumption of innocence are subverted. I think it better to ere on the side of the 8th ammendment in the vast majority of cases.