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More debate over cashless bail

Tuesday, Aug 23, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Ted Slowik

Republicans and law enforcement are winning the messaging war over police reform legislation that the Legislative Black Caucus championed. […]

The Pretrial Fairness Act is part of a broader package of reform legislation known as the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today, or SAFE-T, Act. Many lawmakers who represent the south suburbs had pushed legislation for years to address police misconduct and racial and wealth disparities in the criminal justice system.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus rejoiced when they passed the bill in January 2021. But since then they seem to have dropped the ball on messaging, and critics of the legislative have rushed in to fill the void. Public discourse about the law seems decidedly one-sided.

* Lake County News-Sun

[Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart] alluded to how the legislation has been received around the state by the media and residents, and said, “the media has not always done the best job of explaining this.”

“But I will say it one more time, it’s not that violent offenders no longer have to post cash bail,” he said. “It’s that they no longer get to post cash bail. That’s a very important distinction.”

* Knowable

Social scientists have spent decades studying the devastating effects of high US incarceration rates on individuals and communities. But in recent years some of them have also begun to focus on the equally devastating effects of the US cash bail system. Their findings, as well as prospects for reform, are documented in the 2022 Annual Review of Criminology by sociologist Joshua Page of the University of Minnesota and criminologist Christine Scott-Hayward of California State University, Long Beach.

Knowable recently spoke with Page about what he, Scott-Hayward and other scholars are finding out about bail. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. […]

* Wirepoints

Although some other state’s attorneys and many HB 3653 critics in the legislature and elsewhere continue to call for the outright rescinding of the entire bill, [DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin] takes a more moderate tack. He says, “This law is very fixable. It really is.” He argues that lawmakers can still allow a general presumption against cash bail as in New Jersey’s law, but that also like that state, they can allow too for firm exceptions when deemed necessary by judges.

“And that’s really what the State’s Attorneys have been pushing for. Many of us are not just saying, ‘repeal the whole thing, just get rid of it.’ We have to respect the fact that the General Assembly passed a law. But fix it.”

However in contrast, a group of four county state’s attorneys in Illinois recently telegraphed another line of attack. It forcefully accents the essential right of Illinois communities under the state’s constitution to be protected through a robust bail-setting process.

They wrote that the abolition of cash bail embodied in the bill “denies crime victims their constitutional rights. Article 1, Section 8.1 of the Illinois Constitution, codified in the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, mandates that crime victims shall have the right to have their safety and that of their families considered in denying or fixing the amount of bail, determining whether to release the defendant and setting conditions of release after arrest and conviction. Eliminating bail clearly contradicts previously established and superior law, places crime victims at a greater risk to be re-victimized, and unnecessarily subjects witnesses to threats and intimidation.”

And Berlin himself is thinking about legal remedies if need be. He says the Illinois Supreme Court in Hemingway v. Elrod has affirmed “on the issue of bail…it’s supposed to be a balancing process. Judges are supposed to balance the right of an accused against the right of the general public to receive reasonable protective consideration by the courts.” The Hemingway ruling reads in part, “…the constitutional right to bail must be qualified by the authority of the courts” with sufficient evidence “to deny or revoke bail” for a defendant before trial “to prevent interference with witnesses or jurors or to prevent the fulfillment of threats.”

* Sun-Times

A coalition of national, state and city nonprofit organizations is looking to help some people with housing while their cases move through the courts.

People released on individual recognizance, or I-bonds, can get help paying rent or finding housing from a program backed by the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, The Bail Project and the Lawndale Christian Legal Center.

Six people have been housed since the groups started working together in mid-June. The program has 50 units waiting to be filled by any Chicago residents on personal recognizance who qualify, meaning they make less than 30% of the city’s area median income: $21,900.

The Lawndale Christian Legal Center interviews new arrestees to weigh their needs. If housing is one of them, the process starts, and the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund — which specializes in helping low-income residents with rent assistance — will work with landlords and clients to find them housing.

Amy Campanelli, the vice president of restorative justice at Lawndale Christian Legal Center and former Cook County public defender, said the program is largely about stabilizing people so they can get back on their feet.

* Richmond is in McHenry County

A Richmond man was arrested after he allegedly complained to his apartment management company that there were “illegal foreigners” in the parking lot and he was “ready to shoot to kill them.”

David L. Nelson, 53, of the 400 block of Cunat Boulevard in Richmond, was charged with disorderly conduct, a Class 4 felony.

A criminal complaint filed in McHenry County Circuit Court alleges Nelson sent an email to his property management company, Lakes Management, on August 9.

In the email, Nelson complained about “illegal foreigners hanging around the parking lot,” the complaint said.

“My gun is ready to shoot to kill them. The revolution had started. Down with commie democrats!” the email said, according to the complaint. […]

Nelson was released from the McHenry County Jail after posting 10% of a $20,000 bond, records show.


  1. - Dan Johnson - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 10:43 am:

    I have not heard it put that way “violent offenders no longer get to post cash bail [and buy their way out]”

    Nice framing by SA Rinehart.

  2. - JoanP - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 10:48 am:

    = He argues that lawmakers can still allow a general presumption against cash bail =

    That was, in fact, the law *before* the SAFE-T act. And was routinely ignored by judges.

  3. - Middle Way - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 10:49 am:

    This is a really good primer on the facts of the issue. Helped me to understand what is at stake and cut through the noise

  4. - vern - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 10:50 am:

    === He argues that lawmakers can still allow a general presumption against cash bail as in New Jersey’s law, but that also like that state, they can allow too for firm exceptions when deemed necessary by judges. ===

    What would be a situation where the amount of money a defendant can give the government is a necessary variable in deciding pre-trial detention?

    === “on the issue of bail…it’s supposed to be a balancing process. Judges are supposed to balance the right of an accused against the right of the general public to receive reasonable protective consideration by the courts.” ===

    Why would the amount of money the defendant can give the government affect that balance?

    Cash bail, to me, is like fighting in hockey. None of the defenses of that brutal tradition include a case that other sports should also sanction fistfights, because that would be ludicrous. If the cash bail proponents can’t articulate why cash is objectively a good variable for determining pretrial detention, they should consider that maybe it isn’t.

  5. - Amalia - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 11:17 am:

    Berlin is right to look at a way to balance. Right now the balance has gone to the fight”mass incarceration” side of the equation. One could also look at mass victimization (no, not as it is weirdly used in criminal justice, for mass victim events, but that the mass of victims is overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic and the offenders same) but no one seems to remember that.Unfortunately the bail issue stories get mixed with stories from other jurisdictions where anecdotes are difficult. Statistics may be fine but anecdotes are actually painful.

  6. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 11:25 am:

    It’s disappointing to see how far Ozzie and Harriet’s oldest son has fallen.

  7. - Norseman - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 11:35 am:

    I suspect that the law needs some cleanup as is the case with almost all major reforms. However, the MAGA GOP and rightwing cops and SAs are politicizing it for their own benefits. It would be wishful thinking for the folks to sit down and hammer out the kinks, but that is what IL citizens deserve.

  8. - vern - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 12:11 pm:

    === but no one seems to remember that ===

    I think SA Rinehart addresses that far more effectively than Berlin. Rinehart is making the correct point that pretrial detention decisions will have to be made based on flight risk, threat o the community, and threat to the victims along with the rights of the accused. How would adding the defendant’s available cash to that list be better for victims?

    Seems like Berlin is asking for balance between justice and privileges for the rich, or balance between justice and his office budget. Neither compromise needs to be countenanced, especially not for the sake of victims.

  9. - Aaron B - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 12:34 pm:

    I posted this comment on Friday but it was late in the day and shortly before comments were locked for the weekend so I hope you don’t mind if I repost:

    Can someone explain to me how the new system would work for the very high bonds that some judges set in order to keep the person in jail. I live in Kankakee County, our county sheriff Mike Downey has been pretty outspoken against the no cash bail law. He posted a 30 page document at the end of July on his facebook page that showed the inmates (no names) at the county detention center and the reason why they are in jail along with their bond amount. Most of the bonds were from $50k to $2 million. Many of them appear to be dangerous offenders who probably should be kept in jail until their trial for the safety of the community. Why do the offenders get a bond amount at all? It seems to me that if the judge wants to keep them in jail then they should just be denied bond and therefore they wouldn’t just be released after the new law goes into effect on January 1st.

  10. - double check your work - Tuesday, Aug 23, 22 @ 12:45 pm:

    The media has done a horrible job explaining the law, but that is not entirely the media’s fault. There’s nuance to the law and it requires more than 500 words to fully explain the changes.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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