COOK COUNTY, Ill. — Debate surrounds a new law in January that will eliminate cash bail in Illinois.
On Thursday, a group of activists and lawmakers held a press conference outside the Cook County Courthouse to try to clear up some locals’ misgivings.
“That act becomes a way to make it safer in our communities, not less safe,” said Pastor Charles Straight with the People’s Lobby. “The more people that understand that, the more we will be able to move to a society and a justice system that better addresses the needs of communities and not just the needs of people who can pay for themselves when they are accused of a crime.”
Pastor Straight joined several state and local leaders to support the Pretrial Fairness Act, set to end money bonds in Illinois, come Jan. 1, 2023.
Under the current law, anyone can pay their bond and be released while they await their next court date.
Supporters of the act also want to clear misinformation, such as ensuring survivors can get protective orders. However, the judge will still have the final say on who is released as they await trial.
The Pretrial Fairness Act is part of the final rollout of the Safe-T Act passed by the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives on Jan. 2021. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed it into law in February of that year.
Republican Attorney General candidate Tom Devore opposes the act, criticizing its safety.
“We’re taking it away from the judges, we’re taking it away from the state’s attorney and what we’ve really done is centralize a lot of discretion that was crammed through the legislature in three days,” Devore said. “If we want to resolve this issue, this legislation can be improved and that improvement is going to require putting that difference, in some fashion, with guidelines back in front of the judges.”