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Anti-domestic violence groups defend new law: “It’s about doing your job”

Thursday, Sep 29, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Madison County Record

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine on Wednesday sent a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, saying he is willing to work with the governor to correct problems with the SAFE-T Act before it takes effect Jan. 1.

Haine’s letter, in response to Pritzker’s Sept. 23 message, said the SAFE-T Act, which abolishes the cash bail system in Illinois, will limit the ability of his office – as well as local judges – to detain dangerous defendants prior to trial.

SA Haine’s letter contains this quote from a publication by the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah entitled “Does Bail Reform Increase Crime? An Empirical Assessment of the Public Safety Implications of Bail Reform in Cook County, Illinois”

“(T)he percentage of aggravated domestic violence prosecutions that prosecutors dropped increased from 56% before [Cook County’s 2017 bail reform] to 70% after. A reasonable inference is that the increase in dropped cases resulted from batterers more frequently obtaining pretrial release and intimidating their victims into not pursuing charges at trial.”

But Cook County’s bail reform isn’t the same as the SAFE-T Act.

* Something that’s gotten lost in the uproar is that respected groups which advocate for domestic violence victims are strongly in favor of the state law because they contend the SAFE-T Act is a major improvement to the current system. From Mike Miletich’s latest story

“It isn’t about letting people out of jail,” said Vickie Smith, President and CEO of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It’s about doing your job to determine whether or not the individual being charged is a danger to the community or individuals.”

ICADV said the law will prioritize the safety of survivors by having a comprehensive, fact-based hearing process for individual decisions about pretrial release. Smith said no one can force crime victims to participate in the hearing process. Attorneys or local crisis advocates can go to court hearings on their behalf. However, Smith stressed that it is important to allow them to have the opportunity to participate if they choose to. […]

Advocates noted that lawmakers needed to address the current timeline for pretrial hearings as people are frequently arrested and appear in bond court within a few hours, leaving victims confused and worried about their future. […]

[Mallory Littlejohn, the Legal Director with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation] explained that pretrial release may be denied if the defendant is charged with stalking or aggravated stalking and it is alleged that release poses a real and present threat to the safety of a victim. A judge can also deny release if the survivor of abuse was a family or household member with an order of protection against the defendants. The law calls for denial of pretrial release for any defendants charged with domestic battery if the suspect poses a threat to the safety of a victim or other people as well.

“We were able to include issues regarding civil no contact orders and stalking no contact orders when the bill originally only referenced orders of protection. That’s an expansion,” said Carrie Ward, President and CEO of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. […]

“We believe firmly that whether or not you can write a check is not how we should determine whether or not someone is safe enough to let out of jail,” Smith explained. “In the best interest of victims of domestic violence and the community, we need these procedures in place so we actually look at an individual, look at the circumstances and then decide whether or not they can be released or if they should be detained.”

There’s more, so go read the rest.

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10 Comments
  1. - MisterJayEm - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 11:54 am:

    “respected groups which advocate for domestic violence victims are strongly in favor of the state law because they contend the SAFE-T Act is a major improvement to the current system.”

    It was worth repeating.

    – MrJM


  2. - vern - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 12:12 pm:

    ===A reasonable inference is that the increase in dropped cases resulted from batterers more frequently obtaining pretrial release===

    The linked study’s chapter about this inference doesn’t acknowledge the changeover in the State’s Attorney’s office immediately preceding bail reform, nor does it compare the decline in aggravated domestic violence prosecutions to other year-over-year changes. It also fixes a large share of the blame on the specific public safety assessment tool used by Cook County courts.

    The inference they draw is plausible, but it’s also plausible that Kim Foxx drops a lot more cases across the board than Anita Alvarez did. And if Haine is good at his job, he’ll be able to make the case to his judges that defendants who are likely to intimidate witnesses should be held.


  3. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 12:26 pm:

    ==we need these procedures in place so we actually look at an individual, look at the circumstances and then decide whether or not they can be released or if they should be detained==

    I think this is the part that is too often missed. It is also suggests the questions that should be asked of all these States Attys who are opposed to the reform. How do they proceed during bail/bond hearings now? How do they ensure dangerous folks are not released?


  4. - Bigtwich - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 12:35 pm:

    ” whether or not you can write a check is not how we should determine whether or not someone is safe enough to let out of jail.”

    Best summary I have seen.


  5. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 12:43 pm:

    –“It’s about doing your job”–

    I’m almost certain this is exactly the reason at least one SA is angry about this change.


  6. - Norseman - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 12:49 pm:

    Dissemble, vilify and file a baloney laden lawsuit. Heck of a way to show you want to negotiate.


  7. - Anon324 - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 1:07 pm:

    @InvisibleMan–

    I’d probably put the number closer to 100, but that’s me.


  8. - H-W - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 1:56 pm:

    Thanks for the tip on the publication. I will be reading it tonight. I did a quick google search of the authors (Cassell and Fowles) but did not find a peer-reviewed followup publication from this in house publication. I did see however a few older studies, suggesting we are tying the hands of the police. I hope this study is a little less argumentative.


  9. - Someone working on the implementation - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 2:21 pm:

    The real issue is Illinois does not have a validated risk assessment tool that assesses what Vicki wants it to assess. Validated mean it accurately measures what it is supposed to measure, risk/danger to the public. The Act calls for a uniform statewide risk assessment. Again, not there yet. The assessment currently in Cook County is not validated. In fact, if you look at it as it sits today, it’s basically an old school bond proffer reduces to paper. Until the academics can land on an agreed tool, and then have that tool actually validated, is still way off.


  10. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Sep 29, 22 @ 2:39 pm:

    Bigtwitch is spot on. I have no idea why the defenders of the Act where not using that line from the first attack.


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