Illinois Eliminates Cash Bail, Leading To Big Concerns

( – Illinois only recently implemented what it calls the “Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act,” which effectively completely abolishes the cash bail system, making it the first state in the United States to do so.

The law was subject to intense debate before it was passed, and was also reviewed by the Supreme Court of Illinois, which deemed it constitutional.

The bail system was instituted to ensure that defendants who are released from the custody of law enforcement prior to their trial – since they are supposedly presumed innocent – put up a certain amount of money, a collateral of sorts, to ensure that they appear during their trial.

The new law does away with that system altogether, and suspects in crimes will always be released from custody by default. However, judges reserve the right to keep certain suspects behind bars even before their trial begins on a case-to-case basis. Exceptions to the rule include suspects who are accused of sexual or violent crimes, as well as those who are charged with firearms related offenses. Offenses like hate crimes as well as forcible felonies and non-probational felonies may also qualify a suspect for pre-trial incarceration.

Judges who opt to keep defendants in jail pre-trial will have to consider whether or not the person is a flight risk given their prior convictions or prosecutions, if any, as well as any evidence on the case that is available at that time, as well as other factors.

The Illinois judiciary will also implement a “triage” system of sorts, setting earlier court dates – as early as 48 hours of a suspects initial appearance before a judge – for more serious offenses, while people who are accused of misdemeanors will be released and given a court date in the future.

While supporters of the bill say that it will help alleviate the supposed discrimination the old bail system has against minorities and the poor, others have expressed fears that the law could enable the commission of more crimes.

James Glasgow, the state attorney for Illinois’ Will County, said that the law created a “serious public safety issue,” while at the same time admitting that old bail laws were broken and needed to be reformed.

Jim Kaitschuk, the executive director for the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, said that the law could encourage petty crime offenders to actually do a repeat of a crime they just committed hours ago.

“”If I arrest somebody for retail theft in the morning, are they going to come back in the afternoon otherwise?” he asked.

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