Illinois has become the first state in the U.S. to completely abolish cash bail as a condition for pretrial release following a ruling by the state Supreme Court., which found that the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, which seeks to eliminate cash bail, is constitutional.
Under this law, defendants accused of certain violent misdemeanors and felonies can still be detained before trial. However, it’s now the state’s responsibility to prove that the defendant is a flight risk or poses a threat to the community.
Opponents of cash bail argue that it serves as a “penalty on poverty,” unfairly favoring the wealthy who can afford to pay for their release. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lauded the state’s decision, stating, “This landmark ruling refutes false narratives about cash bail. The truth is that abolishing cash bail improves public safety by allowing people to return to their communities and families who would otherwise be in jail only because they can’t pay for their freedom.”
The ACLU further argues that when individuals can maintain their normal lives by returning home, taking care of their families, and continuing with school or work, it contributes to the overall stability and safety of the community.
However, critics of the abolition worry that it may compromise law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe by detaining suspected criminals.
In response to the change, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stated that the county was prepared to implement the new law. “As a result of nearly two years of thoughtful and collaborative preparation, Cook County is ready to implement the new procedures required by the Pretrial Fairness Act,” Preckwinkle said. “As our court system transitions to the new procedures, my administration will continue to provide resources and support to ensure our continued success.”
Starting from the day the law came into effect, defendants who were previously jailed under a cash bail order are scheduled to have a release hearing.