The Republican Party has warned Illinois lawmakers about a possible crimewave after the state becomes the first to eliminate cash bail for all crimes starting on January 1 – meaning thousands could be released to the streets.
Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, 57, signed the SAFE-T Act into law on December 6, which is set to take effect on January 1.
Illinois joins the likes of New York, New Jersey, California, and more, which have begun various bail reforms in recent years and have also seen a spike in crime.
Republican State Representative Jim Durkin, 61, has been outspoken against the new act, saying the elimination of cash bail will decrease public safety and ‘give drug cartels free rein in Illinois,’ he wrote in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune in September.
‘We have a responsibility under the Constitution as lawmakers to keep people safe,’ Durkin recently said, according to ABC News. ‘There are some people who are a threat to society who should be detained at trial. Move slowly. Don’t take this national progressive approach.’
Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, 57, signed the SAFE-T Act into law on December 6, which is set to take effect on January 1, which is eliminating cash bail
Republican State Representative Jim Durkin, 61, has been outspoken against his distaste for the new act. Durkin believes the elimination will decrease public safety and ‘give drug cartels free rein in Illinois’
Crime is already up 41 percent in Chicago, as of December 11, with a total of 62,958 crimes happening in 2022 thus far.
Robbery, burglary, and theft are all up 15, 16, and 58 percent, respectively, compared to the same time last year.
Durkin and other lawmakers are moving quickly to amend the act again before it takes effect. Despite the various revisions – signed by the governor – the elimination of cash bail is still currently written into the law.
As of now, the new law will only allow alleged criminals to be held pre-trial if the court can prove the person shows a ‘specific, real and present threat to a person, or has a high likelihood of flight,’ according to the SAFE-T Act.
Former State Attorney, Patrick Windhorst, said ‘a lot’ of criminals will be released almost immediately or within a couple of days of committing their crimes.
Violent crimes that use cash bail in Illinois
Illinois is set to be the first state to completely remove cash bail, starting on January 1 when the SAFE-T Act goes into effect.
Many are set to be released without the requirement to post their cash bail, which can include violent crimes.
These violent crimes are currently available for a cash bail option in Illinois:
- Drug offenses (most)
‘Violent crimes, burglary, robbery, arson, kidnapping, almost all drug offenses, DUI offenses, even DUI offenses involving a fatality, do not qualify for detention under the Illinois SAFE-T Act,’ he said.
‘That’s going to mean a lot of individuals are committing crimes and being released immediately, if not within a couple of days.’
Johnson County Sheriff, Pete Sopczak, agreed with Windhorst, saying ‘anyone sitting in jail right now on pending charges, they’re going to be let out.’
The notorious Cook County Jail – which has held many famous inmates like John Wayne Gacy – largely holds pre-trial detainees that could be effected with the new law.
It is unclear how many inmates could be released pre-trail from Cook County. DailyMail.com has reached out to the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Cook County Jail for comment.
Despite the jail’s reputation and the large number of potential releases in the coming days, Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart, who has been in the roll for 16 years, said ‘some of [the bail reform] is really good; some of it [is] not good,’ according to ABC News.
However, he does support the release of those with insignificant crime, especially for those that are stuck in jail bc they cannot met the bail amount.
‘I had about 11,000 people in custody when I started as sheriff – people who were just flat out poor,’ he said according to ABC News. ‘The crime was insignificant, but they didn’t have $100. So, they sat there. I was like, We got to stop that.’
Cook County implemented bail reforms five years ago, according to Dart, and he said it has made the system more sustainable, but not perfect. Criminals are committing more new offenses while on home monitoring, for examples, he told ABC News.
But he warns lawmakers that it’s not easy to perfect the system and that the state has to ‘get it right.’
‘Because [if] you get it wrong, there’ll be a reaction to it, and people say: “See what happened there? We can’t do this because look what happened there.”‘
Crime is already up 41 percent in Chicago, as December 11, with a total of 62,958 crimes happening in 2022 thus far. Robbery, burglary, and theft are all up 15, 16, and 58 percent, respectively, compared to the same time last year.
For decades, state courts have used cash bail as a way to incentivize defendants to show up to court and complete legal proceedings. Cash bails go toward those processes and help the individual pay for it.
However, critics said the cash bail system is often racist and discriminates against the poor. African Americans are typically assigned an almost four percent higher bail than their white counterparts, leaving them with a bill that is typically $7,000 more, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In 2015, Lavette Mayes, 52, a black woman from Chicago, was held in Cook County Jail for a prolonged amount of time due to fact that she couldn’t post her $250,000 bail after she got into an altercation with her mother-in-law that landed them both in the hospital.
‘They hit the gavel and said that my bond was assessed at $250,000, $25,000 to walk,’ she told ABC News. It was shocking because I had no criminal record, and I didn’t understand it.
The new law could release thousands of inmates being holed up due to not being able to pay the cash bail. One of the country’s most notorious jails – Cook County, which largely holds detainees waiting for trial – releasing many back to the streets
Many Illinois citizens and lawmakers are worried the state will see a crime spike, especially in Chicago, much like other large cities have seen, like NYC
Mayes spent more than 14 months in jail before she was able to negotiate a more affordable bail and was released on home monitoring.
‘I lost my business. I lost housing. I lost transportation, my vehicles. I lost everything just in the 571 days that I was incarcerated [awaiting trial],’ she said.
Despite cases like Mayes – which the law is primarily supposed to help – some Chicago citizens are worried about the impending rush of potentially dangerous individuals back to the streets.
‘It’s okay until it touches you and your family [or] you, personally,’ Natalia Dagenhart, a Ukrainian immigrant who lives in the high-class neighbor of Naperville near Chicago, told ABC News.
She, too, worries crime will surge and already feels less safe.
‘More than that, I [already] don’t come to Chicago anymore,’ she told ABC News.
Bail reforms across the US
Several states have started to reform bail laws in recent years and it was a huge matter in the recent midterm elections.
Here’s a list of how some states have already begun changing bail laws.
The Golden State changed its bail law in March 2021, according to UCLA’s Law School. The new law said that courts couldn’t set bail at a number people can’t afford, making it unconstitutional.
However, according to a study done by the law school, the new law did not make cash bail more affordable or decrease pre-trial detention.
‘Instead, we found that many judges are finding new ways to justify holding people pretrial and expanding the reach of the system,’ Alicia Virani of UCLA, said.
Nebraska proposed in 2021 to completely eliminate bail, however, it appears no reforms have gone into law.
State Senator John Cavanaugh, who introduced the bill, said bails penalized the poor and forced many defendants to plead guilty to avoid more jail time.
‘The system right now bears no relationship to the likelihood of appearance or danger to society,’ he said. ‘It’s only a measure of access to capital.’
The Midwest state limited who charitable bond groups can release from bail through their programs, according to the Indy Star. Organizations can no longer bail out violent criminals.
The Empire State has received a lot of flack on its bail laws, especially in New York City, which saw an insurgent of criminals repeatedly being released to the streets just to cause more damage.
New York’s lax bail laws do no allow nonviolent criminals to be assigned a bail in most cases, according to NYCLU.
The Southern state has had many calls for reform, but there has not been any new legislation introduced.
A panel of judges in Louisville, alongside criminal justice leaders in the state, met in early 2022 to discuss how bail laws hindered the poor, according to WLKY.
However, the state’s law has not changed and the Kentucky Constitution guarantees bail for all crimes, except capital offenses.
Much like Illinois, the state has mostly eliminated bail eight years ago unless a judge could prove the criminal was a flight risk or had prior offenses, according to Politico.
However, the state’s Democrats are looking to roll back on it, after watching their neighbor, New York, struggle with increasing crime after a large bail overhaul.
Similar to New Jersey, it’s now based a risk score. A high score will allow the courts to assign a bail bond, whereas, a low score will allow defendants to be released on recognizance, according to Vera Institute of Justice.