Ending Cash Bail in Illinois


Photograph courtesy of www.aclu-il.org

Following a summer of protests against police brutality, a push for criminal justice reform has materialized in Illinois. January 13 marked the passage of such a package through the state’s legislature. Backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, HB3653 now solely awaits Governor JB Pritzker’s autograph.

Included in HB3653 is the controversial Pretrial Fairness Act, effectively ending cash bail. Sue Scherer, state representative for Illinois’ 96th district states, “ Cash bail keeps low-income defendants incarcerated – even those who pose no threat to the community.” In a 2019 report, New Jersey crimes rates decreased and new alleged criminal activity remained at comparable figures after ending cash bail. New Jersey is currently the only other state without monetary bond.

Dan Brady, state representative for Illinois’ 105th district expresses concern on ending cash bail. “The 764 page bill is very complex and the state is still unclear of all ramifications”.   Illinois is only the fifth state to reform cash bail laws, yet California, New York and Alaska have since had to draw back legislation due to upticks in crime. Representative Brady claims the bill, “will force crime back into the communities”.

Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell agrees with Brady. “I believe ending cash bail in Sangamon County could result in crime rates rising, therefore making our county less safe.” Campbell goes on to say, “The monetary bond can either ensure a defendant comes back to court, or if the bond is revoked it can be used to pay victim’s restitution or be used by law enforcement to pay for the resources used to locate the defendant and bring them to justice.”

Not all alleged criminals will be released under the Pretrial Fairness Act. Exceptions from pretrial release under HB3653 include forcible felonies such as first-degree murder, sexual assault, arson and any other felony involving the use or threat of physical force; stalking and aggravated stalking where the defendant poses a threat to the victim if released; abuse or battery of a family member where their release poses a danger to that family member; gun crimes where the defendant poses a threat to a specific, identifiable person; and cases where the defendant has committed a felony that would not otherwise result in detention but they are considered a high risk of fleeing prosecution and missing their court date.

Illinois is likely to transition into a cash bail free state starting 2023.  HB3653 will create data collecting boards to analyze the effectiveness of this legislation.