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Illinois becomes first state to eliminate cash bail

Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker credited the state's legislative black caucus for helping get the measure enacted.

Updated: February 24, 2021 - 1:57pm

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Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed criminal justice reform legislation making his state the first in the country to end cash bail.

In a statement, the governor's office said the policy reform will help move Illinois "from a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth, to one that prioritizes public safety."

The cash bail system has drawn criticism, especially in recent years, for disproportionately impacting low-income individuals and people of color.

Pritzker said the legislation signed Monday "marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice."

The bill is one of a number of legislative reforms that Pritzker's office says are focused on increasing "safety, fairness and justice by transforming the state's criminal justice system."

Also included in legislation are: 

  • Mandated use of body cameras in police departments across Illinois.
  • Statewide standards on the use of force, deescalation, and arrest techniques.
  • Elimination of license suspensions over unpaid fines and fees from traffic offenses.

The governor gave credit to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for leading the bill through legislative hurdles, including significant opposition from state Republicans.