Illinois’ new “no-cash bail” provision – the most extreme cash bail abolition in the country – goes into effect September 18, continuing Illinois leaders’ long-running move to decriminalize and decarcerate the criminal justice system.
The SAFE-T Act, originally passed in Feb. 2021, increases public safety risks for Illinoisans – Chicagoans, in particular – by increasing the number of criminal defendants on pretrial release. Chicago is already well on its way to hitting a post-2019 high in major crimes, as we reported recently.
The criminal justice system is also likely to end up less equitable than before, despite “equity” being the core justification for bail reforms. The end of cash bail could mean more minority defendants being detained pretrial and even more minorities ending up as victims.
The implementation of the no-cash-bail system is the culmination of more than two years of legislative and judicial conflicts over the SAFE-T Act. The act made major changes to law enforcement regulations and court procedures, but the elimination of cash bail was its most contentious provision. The law was halted for a time, but the Illinois Supreme Court ultimately upheld the law.
The original 2021 law was even more radical than what’s now going into effect, to the point where it had to be amended three times after its initial passage. Prior to the amendments, it was nearly impossible to detain many potentially dangerous felony defendants. The law was changed only after lawmakers faced intense pressure from 100 of Illinois’ 102 county prosecutors.
But though the law is now much better than its original, it still opens the door to more lawlessness in a state already experiencing a crime crisis – of shoplifting, robberies, mob actions, low arrest rates, unanswered 911 calls – and with no plan to deal with it.
Here’s why the SAFE-T should eventually be unwound:…