Illinois' Democrat governor blinks, suggests new cashless bail law might need changes amid outcry

Prosecutors and state Republicans call SAFE-T Act a security threat.

Updated: September 30, 2022 - 11:24pm

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has suggested that changes to the state's controversial SAFE-T Act could be needed to better inform the public.

Among other things, the SAFE-T Act eliminates cash bail in Illinois. Supporters say it will keep many criminals in jail, while those opposed say it will let most people out.

Pritzker said the SAFE-T Act could undergo some changes, mainly to help Illinois citizens better understand what the measure does.

"One thing I think is reasonable is there are people who do not understand the SAFE-T Act and are misrepresenting it," Pritzker said at a campaign stop in Springfield Thursday. "So making changes to the language is such, so that people will understand."

Pritzker said he would be open to changes that help keep the state safe.

"Well again, I am willing to consider tweaks to the legislation," Pritzker said. "The legislation is about providing tools and technology to police, making sure we are funding them, and making sure we keep the murderers, rapists, and domestic abusers in jail."

One Illinois lawmaker proposed changes to the SAFE-T Act with a trailer bill that could come up after the election.

Senate Bill 4228 was introduced by state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, and aims to clarify language and improve how officials can enforce the law.

“Senate Bill 4228 is an effort to improve consistency in the SAFE-T Act and allow law enforcement officials to continue to effectively perform their duties and protect our communities,” Bennett said.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, has been in support of the act but said she will always listen to ideas to better improve public safety.

"We believe in the transformative and holistic changes to our criminal justice system included in the SAFE-T Act, and we also recognize we can continue to improve upon that progress through thoughtful, honest, and collaborative dialogue," Gordon-Booth said.

Republican lawmakers have taken issue with how the SAFE-T Act was handled in session and have argued for repealing the measure instead of making changes with trailer bills.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Teutopolis, told The Center Square that the Democrats had created their own problems.

"Democrats manufacture a crisis and then act as if they can fix it. They then blame the Republicans for their failures. The SAFE-T Act needs to be repealed," Niemerg said. "We need to stop passing bills at four in the morning without any review."

State Rep. Mike Marron, R-Danville, also thinks the measure should be done away with.

"The SAFE-T Act was rushed through in the middle of the night during the last hours of a lame duck session," Marron told The Center Square. "It should immediately be repealed."

GOP candidate for governor state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, said crime will spread after the act goes into effect.

"Gov. Pritzker has created the crime that goes on in Chicago and on our streets," Bailey said. "Friends, on Jan. 1, the crime that we are reading about in Chicago will open up across our state."

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