The Illinois Supreme Court upheld a measure eliminating cash bail in the state, finding that Democratic legislators acted properly when they passed the law, which will transform the Illinois criminal justice system and limit judges’ ability to hold defendants in jail before trial, reported The New York Times.
The Illinois law, which went beyond similar bail
overhauls in other states, was part of a national push to reduce jail
populations and end a system in which wealth can determine whether a defendant
returns home to await trial. But it infuriated many county prosecutors and
sheriffs, who asserted that the law was passed improperly and made the state
In its ruling on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said cash
bail would end in Illinois on Sept. 18.
Cash bail has been widely used for decades. Rather
than sit in jail waiting for a trial that may not begin for months, a defendant
is allowed to deposit money with the court and remain free. But if they fail to
show up when they are supposed to, the defendant risks losing that money.
Civil rights groups and politicians, many of them
Democrats, have long called for limiting or abolishing that system, and for
allowing more defendants to be released without having to put up money. Critics
say the cash bail system is unfair to poor defendants, who risk losing jobs or
homes if they cannot afford to post bail.
“Someone’s experience with the criminal justice system
should not vary based on their income level,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a
Democrat, said in a statement praising the 5-to-2 decision.
But law enforcement groups have spoken in ominous
terms about what the change would mean for public safety. In a court brief,
lawyers for the union representing rank-and-file Chicago police officers said
the law “sets forth a recipe for increases in crime, recidivism, dysfunction in
the criminal prosecution system, and danger to police officers and the communities
Jersey and New Mexico have vastly reduced the use of cash bail but
have not ended it completely. New York has
eliminated it for certain types of offenses but not others. Those moves also
led to fierce opposition, and
The Illinois law passed with broad Democratic support
and was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, part of a shift to the political left
since Democrats reclaimed full
control of state government in the 2018 election.
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