BREAKING: Illinois ends cash bail with new sweeping justice reform bill

The bill, introduced and authored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, introduces new police accountability protocols.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

Illinois Governor Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, putting an end to cash bail in the state, along with other key changes.

The bill, introduced and authored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, introduces new police accountability protocols such as crisis intervention and de-escalation tactics, as well as new transparency measures.

"I have long held that an essential mark of good governance is a willingness to change the laws that have failed the people of Illinois," Pritzker wrote in a statement.

"This criminal justice package carries with it the opportunity to shape our state into a lesson in true justice for the nation by abolishing cash bail, modernizing sentencing laws, instituting a certification and decertification system for police officers statewide, requiring body cameras, reforming crowd control response, and amplifying law enforcement training standards.

"I was proud to make ending cash bail and modernizing sentencing laws a legislative priority of my administration, and I have long pledged my support to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in their efforts to pass not just criminal justice reform and police accountability measures, but also to truly root out the systemic racism that pulses through all our nation’s institutions by pursuing greater equity in healthcare, higher goals in education, and deeper investments in economic opportunity for communities that have for too long been left out and left behind."

Cash bail laws will be removed, which previously allowed people to be released from jail for a set price, so long as they weren't deemed a risk of fleeing or of harming others.

"For too long, people in this state have spent time in jail only because they could not afford to pay their bail," wrote Sen. Robert Peters, chair of the Senate Black Caucus.

"Eliminating cash bail ends the practice of detaining non-violent offenders simply because they are poor while also preventing violent offenders from being released because they can afford bail," said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

Others, however, believe that scrapping cash bail laws will "cause problems."

"We understand the rationale for it, but there needs to be a lot more serious concern and a lot more latitude for judges to determine whether someone might be dangerous to society before letting them out on bail," wrote Ed Wojcicki of the Illinois Associations of Chiefs of Police.

Republican Rep. Tom Weber also highlighted concerns around the bill, going so far as to call it dangerous.

"I would say I am shocked, but this has become the norm in Springfield – wait until the last moment and then drop a bill that is more than 700 pages on the floor, preventing even a basic level of public review," wrote Weber in a statement to NBC.

"Make no mistake, this legislation is dangerous and makes every community less safe. Public safety budgets will be cut, unfunded mandates will be poured on local communities and police, and officers could be subjected to punishment and held personally liable for unsubstantiated or unverifiable complaints. However, perhaps the worst part, many violent felons will be able to walk free before trial."


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