Illinois Becomes First State To Eliminate Cash Bail

The Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC), housing one of the nation's largest jails, is seen in Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 2020. - The jail has seen a rise in coronavirus cases after two inmates tested positive on March 23. The Cook County Sheriff's Office reported that as of 5pm on April 9, 2020, 276 inmates and 172 Sheriff's Office staff had tested positive for the virus. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
4:50 PM – Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Illinois is now the first state in the United States to completely abolish cash bail as the SAFE-T Act went into effect on Monday, September 18th


On Monday, the state of Illinois made the decision to end cash bail as a condition of Pretrial Release.

This comes after the Supreme Court of Illinois ruled that a new law would be enacted called “the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act,” which states that eliminating cash bail is now constitutional. 

Pretrial Release is when an individual is “accused of a crime, who has been booked into custody, is then released from custody, with or without conditions, before trial, with charges pending.” 

As a result, the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act makes Illinois the first state in the nation to completely get rid of monetary cash bail. 

Therefore, defendants charged with specific felonies and violent misdemeanors will still be detained before the trial, however, the burden will be on the state to decide whether the defendant portrays a flight risk or a danger to the community.

“Today, Illinois is no longer criminalizing poverty, and the entire nation has their eyes on us,” Illinois House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch said during a press conference Monday.

Going forward, those detention decisions will not include offering money in exchange for release.

Instead, the decisions will be made based on the nature of the allegations brought against them, whether they pose a threat to the public, and whether they run the risk of fleeing prosecution.

The Pretrial Fairness Act is part of the SAFE-T Act, a criminal justice reform law intended to end the use of cash bail throughout the state.

Cash bail has been condemned by many as a “penalty on poverty,” with rivals of the practice stating that it provides special treatment to wealthy people who can afford to “pay for their freedom.”

“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 said in a statement in July. “When people can go home, take care of their families, and keep up with school or work, that stability makes all our communities safer and stronger.”

However, opponents of the cash bail abolishment decision fear that it will reduce law enforcement’s ability to keep communities secure by locking up suspected criminals. 

“The money bond system wrongly tied access to financial resources to pretrial freedom. The result has been countless individuals – mostly from Black and Brown communities – spending days, weeks, months, years in jail just for being poor,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Additionally, Preckwinkle explained to NBC News that the community 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 explained. “As our court system transitions to the new procedures, my administration will continue to provide resources and support to ensure our continued success.”

Emanuel Chris Welch, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, expressed his praise for the bill during a press conference and called out critics of the act.

“Anyone who suggests criminals will automatically be released from jail, or print fake newspapers about the ‘purge’ law—ladies and gentlemen, they’re being disingenuous,” said Welch.

On Monday, September 18th, defendants currently jailed under a cash bail order received a release hearing. 

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