According to an article by Block Club Chicago in March 2023, “a law ending cash bail throughout Illinois is going to the state’s Supreme Court.”

Originally, the state was going to eliminate cash bail at the start of 2023. But there was a delay. Why? Various prosecutors and sheriffs in Illinois mentioned the legal challenges and how they believe implementing the law is unconstitutional. This belief comes from the separating the power of the state with judiciary processes.

Those in favor of bringing an end to cash bail said their position is justified. The crux of their argument is that cash bail policies are discriminatory. People at or below the poverty line don’t have the resources to pay.

What Is The SAFE-T Act?

During the November 2022 elections, the “SAFE-T Act” was a point of contention on social media and elsewhere.

SAFE-T is an acronym for safety, accountability, fairness and equity- today.” The governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, signed it into law the preceding year. The SAFE-T Act purpose is to eliminate cash bail as a part of the pre-trial process. Mack Liederman wrote for Block Club Chicago “instead of a judge assigning bail, the law would trigger rigorous detention hearings that involve a judge deciding whether a defendant should be detained before trial, supporters said.”

This act sets out to create equity in the legal system for communities of color that often cannot afford cash bail. If the act were to go into affect, prosecutors would have to go through a more detailed process to determine if the offender should be detained before trial instead of just posting bail.

This would benefit low income, highly policed communities (often communities of color) as they would have the chance to be released when awaiting trial as long as they pose no threat to their community, an option usually only available to those who can afford bail.

According to Capitol News Illinois, a democrat, Rep. Kam Buckner, said the SAFE-T Act was a step in a good direction. To him, it was “the first stab” at addressing bad blood between minority communities and law enforcement, and public safety in general.

Buckner said, “there is no such thing as perfect legislation. But I think all legislation can be perfected if it’s handled the right way,” 

Capitol News Illinois said Illinois Republicans took issue. Some of them blasted the act as a “de facto defund the police bill, due to its added training and equipment requirements and purported effect on officer morale, even though it doesn’t directly affect law enforcement funding.”

The law also does stop judges from being able to leave anyone who is arrested detain.

Noah Asimow and Pascal Sabino wrote for Block Club Chicago that a person can still be determined by a judge to remain detained based on their criminal charges or if they are a danger to their community.

Original Reporting

Illinois is passing a law that some would say will make history. It’s looking to be the first state in the United States to abolish cash bail. And the consequences of passing such a law have many believing the state could mirror the horror movie “The Purge”. In the film, citizens were given 24 hours to commit all the crimes they wanted.

Photo Credit: Ron Lach

Non-Detainable Offenses

There are 12 non-detainable offenses where the new law would end cash bail. The law includes second-degree murder, arson, drug-induced homicide, robbery, kidnapping, aggravated battery, burglary, intimidation, aggravated driving under the influence, fleeing and eluding, drug offenses, and threatening a public official.

“I’m very concerned about an increase in violent crime. But again I do want to stress there is still time to fix it. And the state’s attorneys are working very hard as we have been for the last year and a half to fix this law. It is very fixable, where we can still eliminate cash bail but make sure the right people are in custody and everybody else who’s not a danger gets out,” said state’s attorney Robert Berlin.

The Safe-T Act would allow criminals a pre-trial release for the crimes listed above. And if prosecutors fail to show “clear and convincing evidence” that the alleged could be a threat to a specific individual. Unfortunately, the consequences of the Safe-T Act make an impact on how fast arrested criminals must be dealt with. Because prosecutors would only have 48 hours to decide whether the alleged criminal should be released. Investigators believe that 48 hours isn’t enough time to collect valuable evidence from surveillance cameras, laboratory work, and forensic research.

Reason For SAFE-T Act

As controversial as this law could be, let’s look at how this came about. For many years in the United States, many have called to abolish the cash bail system. Three out of five people that are in jail have not been convicted of any crimes. That’s about half a million people wasting away in jail cells before there’s even a trial because of the lack of actual investigating and research.

The Center For American Progress believes the cash bail system in most jurisdictions across the US are “criminalizing poverty.” Most in detention can’t afford the bail and spend weeks to even months, awaiting trial. This system mostly affects communities of color who already have the odds stacked against them across the country.

Hence, “studies show that pretrial detention can actually increase a person’s likelihood of rearrest upon release, perpetuating an endless cycle of arrest and incarceration,” stated the institute.