Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation to reduce county jail crowding by granting bail relief to non-violent offenders.
The Republican governor signed the measure Friday in Chicago. Legislative sponsors joined him. They were Chicago Democratic state Sen. Donne Trotter, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs and Chicago Democratic state Rep. Elgie Sims.
Rauner says the plan improves the criminal justice system. He said, “Our system must work equally for all our residents.”
Willie Wilson, an African-American businessman who once ran for mayor and has since been working on criminal justice reform issues, was deeply involved in the passage of this legislation. You can hear him speak about the bill today by clicking here.
* From the Senate Democrats…
Senate Bill 2034 establishes rights for defendants with regard to bail, encourages courts to adopt a statewide, data-driven risk assessment tool and extends the sunset of the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law by five years. This legislation shifts the focus of pre-trial release decision making from a person’s ability to afford bail to an individual’s threat to public safety or flight risk.
• Requires the court to appoint a public defender or attorney for a bail hearing if the defendant wishes but cannot obtain counsel on their own.
• Presumes that any bail set should be non-monetary and that the court should address the risk in the least restrictive way possible.
• Under this legislation, defendants have the right to a new bail hearing and a right to bail credits for time served.
• Requires an individual in custody for a non-violent misdemeanor, Class 4 felony or Class 3 felony due to an inability to post monetary bail to be brought before the court at the next available court date or seven calendar days from when bail was set for a rehearing on the bail.
• Provides defendants with the right to conditions of release considerate of the defendant’s economic and social circumstances.
• Encourages the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to implement a data-driven, validated, statewide risk assessment tool to determine if a defendant is a danger to the community or a flight risk.
• The effectiveness of cash bonds has come under scrutiny. Studies show that many low-risk offenders are detained in jail due to an inability to pay bail. This can cause further negative effects on the detainee such as increased likelihood of recidivism.
• The Eighth Amendment requires that there be no excessive bail or fines imposed while in police custody.
• Under current Illinois law, all individuals that are arrested must qualify for bond unless there is proof or a strong probability that the defendant is guilty of certain offenses that are listed in statute. If an arrestee qualifies for bail, they can place a deposit of 10 percent of the ordered bail amount in order to be released from jail. They also have the option of placing collateral up for bail.
* From the governor…
“We are taking an important step in improving our state’s criminal justice system,” Governor Rauner said. “Our system must work equally for all our residents, in every community, regardless of their income. We should be focused on putting people in jobs not jail.”
Notably absent at the bill signing ceremony was Dart, who launched a campaign last fall against the cash-bail system. The sheriff’s office did not respond to an inquiry about why he wasn’t at the event. Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, noted Dart’s absence and suggested he should have been invited.