Illinois Democrats celebrate the abolishment of cash bail

Critics have claimed the measure will only increase the crime rate in Chicago and throughout the state.

Published: September 18, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

Illinois Democrats celebrated the end of cash bail statewide on Monday while others worried about an increase in crime.

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today, or SAFE-T Act, was approved by the General Assembly in January 2021. It makes several changes to the criminal justice system, including eliminating cash bail statewide, making it the first state to do so after being enacted on Monday. The Pretrial Fairness Act was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, but was delayed by court challenges until two months ago when it was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court.

In Chicago Monday morning, Cook County and state officials spoke at a rally to celebrate the end of money bond and shared their thoughts on how they said this will make the state a safer place.

"Today, we end an antiquated and unjust system that has disproportionately harmed our communities of color and the poor," said Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, D-Hillside. "Today, we are one step closer to a detention system that puts victims first."

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, who has been criticized for how she has handled criminal prosecutions in the city, said she is ready to end cash bail.

"Today, Sept. 18th, 2023, as we embark on this new era of history, I can ensure you that the Cook County State's Attorney's office stands ready to implement the Pretrial Fairness Act," Foxx said.

Critics have claimed the measure will only increase the crime rate in Chicago and throughout the state.

Ted Dabrowski of Wirepoints said Chicago has led the nation in homicides for 11 years and that the state should focus on stopping crime.

"There's no plan to address the crisis. Instead, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor [Brandon Johnson], Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, and Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans have all decided to pursue decriminalization and decarceration. The SAFE-T Act is a key part of that agenda," Dabrowski said.

The way the measure is written will increase the crime rate due to criminals being let out with no discretion, Dabrowski said.

"Under the previous cash bail system, all felonies were potentially detainable by a judge. That is no longer the case under the SAFE-T Act," Dabrowski said. "Defendants accused of many low-level 'Class 4' felonies, like criminal damage to property, are simply non-detainable now. More defendants out before trial will, necessarily, increase the risk to ordinary Illinoisans. It's simple: more defendants on the street equals more potential for crime."

Advocates for the Pretrial Fairness Act say criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty and shouldn't have to languish behind bars pending trial simply for not being able to afford money bond.

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