Illinois lawmakers could make late-session push to end cash bail

(The Center Square) – An Illinois lawmaker has introduced a bill to get rid of the cash bail system in the state.

Illinois, an outlier in how it handles bonding out of jail after an arrest, would see cash bail eliminated under the proposed legislation.

In 2017, Illinois became one of just a handful of states that don’t use a bail bondsman in its court system. Instead, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin, all require 10% payment of the total bail in payment before the arrested individual can be released before trial. Alaska, California, New Jersey, and New York have all moved largely away from cash bail.

State Sen. Robert Peters announced in November legislation that would eliminate cash bail entirely.

“For many people, the definition of ‘criminal justice’ ends at the point of arrest, but it’s important to realize the true size of the entire system,” Peters said in a release. “The reality is that the criminal justice system is large, wide-reaching, and full of systemic injustice from top to bottom. The hope is that the Pretrial Fairness Act will be the first in a long series of reforms to reshape the system that has destroyed so many families.”

The bill would need to be considered in the final days of the current 101st General Assembly or be refiled in January once the new session commences.

Peters appeared on an episode of the Indivisible Chicago Podcast with Sharone Mitchell, director of the Illinois Justice Project, to discuss how cash bail disproportionately affects low-income minorities and can lead to more crime.

“When you take away a man or a woman’s ability to put food on the table, educate themselves, go to work, then you increase those criminogenic factors that increase the harm that our communities are trying to shake,” Mitchell said.

Prosecutors and the law enforcement community oppose ending cash bail, saying it removes a tool to keep potentially-dangerous criminals locked up. The Illinois Sheriff’s Association, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, Chicago Lodge 7 Fraternal Order of Police, the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, coalesced in March to oppose another measure that would have ended cash bail.

Due to COVID-19 related difficulties, the bill has yet to appear on the Legislature’s online portal but Peters said it will be Senate Bill 4025.

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