Legislators approved the SAFE-T Act at the urging of the Black Caucus in January 2021 as part of Black legislators’ response to the murder of George Floyd.
“This is about trying to build a process that allows people to have faith in the system, and building a process where justice is more fair,” said state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, a Black Caucus member.
Her own stepson was murdered in 2014.
“Crime is something that has been very prevalent in a lot of communities in Illinois. I myself am a crime victim. My family has seen the absolute worst of every side of this issue,” she said. “For one to think that anybody would be a proponent of crime is silly and it’s quite preposterous.”
More on the murder of Deputy Majority Leader Gordon-Booth’s stepson can be found here. Some of JGB’s work with crime victims is here.
* So, what about her statement that some people are claiming that those supporting the law are a “proponent of crime”? Well, here are just a few quick examples gathered by my associate Isabel Miller…
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin: Until they wake up and repeal their pro-criminal SAFE-T Act, there will be no safe communities in Illinois.
Rep. Andrew Chesney: “How did we get here? During the final hours of the 2021 lame duck session, Illinois Democrats rammed through anti-police, pro-criminal legislation, which Governor Pritzker then signed into law.”
Rep. Joe Sosnowski: “Together with thousands of like-minded citizens across Illinois, we can put pressure on Illinois Democrats to reverse course on their dangerous pro-criminal policies before it is too late.”
McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally: Kenneally called the enactment of HB 3653 a “political ambush” that is “dedicated to the well-being of one constituency – criminal defendants.”
Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey: No mention of this officer by our anti-law enforcement Governor, no mention of this officer by the authors of HB 3653 Sen. Elgie Sims or Rep. Justin Slaughter both anti-law enforcement legislators who rammed through anti-police/pro-criminal legislation in the early morning hours when no one was watching.
JGB was and remains a SAFE-T Act proponent, but also says that changes will be made in the veto session.
* On to a media advisory…
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, along with Representatives Keith Wheeler and Chris Bos, will host a news conference via zoom and broadcast on BlueRoomStream on Wednesday, October 5 at 12:00 pm (Noon) CT.
The SAFE-T Act, which takes effect on January 1st, will end cash bail and increase property taxes to pay for this new government program. House Republicans will discuss the increased costs on local governments which will be heaped upon overburdened property taxpayers in Illinois.
* One of their House Republican candidates laid out the property tax argument in a recent press release…
Illinois House 66th District Candidate Connie Cain will support repealing the SAFE-T Act to protect the community and prevent property tax increases from filling the budget holes that the legislation is creating for local governments.
Last week, the Kane County Board announced it was discussing the first property tax increase in a decade to fill a deficit - about $3 million of which was created by unfunded mandated reforms in the SAFE-T Act - which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023, as reported by the Daily Herald.
As a United States Army Reserves veteran and a Licensed Certified Public Accountant with over 20 years of financial experience, Cain is concerned that the legislation is fiscally irresponsible and harmful to public safety.
“The SAFE-T Act defunds the police through unfunded mandates and cost shifts to local taxpayers for administering our criminal justice system after January 1st,” said Cain. “This defunding is forcing local governments like ours to increase property taxes, decrease public safety, or both. If elected, I will fight to repeal this legislation and its accompanying hikes to our local property taxes, which are already the second-highest in the nation thanks to tax-and-spend politicians in Springfield.”
While the SAFE-T Act has been receiving national attention for its sweeping overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice and pre-trial detention system that could threaten public safety, taxpayers are only just becoming aware of the very real defunding and tax hikes the legislation punts to local government officials.
“This legislation undoes all the hard work local officials have put in over the last ten years to avoid local property tax hikes,” Cain said. “We are seeing the defunding play out in real-time and, as always, it will overburden Kane County taxpayers and families footing the bill.”
The Kane County Board has tried to prevent property tax increases by keeping government salaries lower than neighboring DuPage and Lake counties, but new costs are driving the conversation about tax hikes. The SAFE-T Act was opposed by nearly every law enforcement organization in the state, and it was criticized by local governments concerned it would be especially detrimental to smaller police departments and drive up taxes. The final legislation was passed in the middle of the night without a single Republican vote.
Illinois House Republicans proactively filed House Resolution 598 in January, which “Urges the Illinois General Assembly to value and protect crime victims and law enforcement and to repeal House Bill 3653, the SAFE-T Act, in its entirety.” The resolution was never called for a vote. Cain said she would be introducing new legislation to both repeal no cash bail and other dangerous provisions of the SAFE-T Act and to prevent property tax hikes to fund criminal justice reforms.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Illinois Network for Pretrial Fairness press release…
Leader Durkin is Lying, SAFE-T Act Does Not Require Property Tax Increase
The SAFE-T Act does not require counties to raise property taxes to fund the criminal legal system after eliminating cash bail. For the last two years, the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts has been working with stakeholders from every branch of government to ensure that counties across Illinois have the guidance and resources they need to effectively make this transition. Non-partisan and bi-partisan groups agree that forcibly extracting revenue through a system of cash bail from low-income people and families living in poverty is not a financially responsible, sustainable, or ethical way to fund government operations.
Money bond does not keep communities safe because it allows people who are a safety or flight risk to be released pretrial as long as they have money, and it jails people who are legally innocent solely because they are poor. People should not be jailed pretrial simply because they can’t afford to pay bond.
In today’s press conference, Leader Durkin claimed that eliminating cash bail removes an operational revenue stream for the criminal legal system. Funding government operations should not happen on the backs of and through the incarceration of low-income communities and people of color. Most people who are unable to pay a money bail, and who are consequently incarcerated pretrial, fall within the poorest third of society. Unnecessary pretrial incarceration of those who are innocent leads to the disruption of family, neighborhood, employment, and community ties. Such disruptions can actually increase the risk of recidivism and destabilize community safety.
Wealth-based incarceration has torn families apart. In Chicago, Lavette Mayes, a mother of two and small business owner was jailed for 571 days because she could not afford to pay her bond. During that time, Ms. Mayes lost her home and business and almost lost custody of her children. Several years after her case ended, Ms. Mayes is still recovering from the harms caused by her pretrial incarceration, and her children remain traumatized to this day. Stories like this one are present in communities across the state, which is why legislators worked to eradicate the use of money bond in Illinois.
Money bond extracts wealth from our state’s poorest communities who are forced to choose between paying rent and paying a ransom to free their loved ones. It is also costly for counties across the state. Pretrial incarceration costs an estimated $40,567 per person per year.
By eliminating cash bail, the Pretrial Fairness provisions of the SAFE-T Act makes sure that low-income people are not trapped in a cycle of poverty and jail time in a criminal justice system that violates the basic constitutional and human rights of our community’s most vulnerable people. The SAFE-T Act ensures that decisions about who is released pretrial and who is jailed are based on safety needs and not access to money. Our justice system should focus on public safety needs and not on generating revenue.
More on Lavette Mayes here.
*** UPDATE 2 *** From the governor’s office…
Since Governor Pritzker took office, over $1.1 billion annually has been allocated to local governments to assist with costs over and above what they were previously receiving from the state. This is on top of the 49% increase in revenue sharing to local governments over Governor Pritzker’s first term. In addition, the FY23 budget includes, but certainly is not limited to, an additional $30 million in grants to help local governments with the costs of body and vehicle cameras, which have been proven to be a critical element of a reformed criminal justice system. For pretrial services, to date the state has provided an additional $26 million in funding for the Illinois Supreme Court’s requested support for the first phase of a three-part effort to establish comprehensive pretrial services in the counties without such services.
The Governor has and will continue to work with the General Assembly and local governments to ensure the appropriate resources are allocated to support the reforms passed in the SAFE-T act. The Pre-trial Fairness Act creates a system where detention is based on risk, rather than poverty: that’s why domestic violence groups and other victims’ rights groups support it. Public safety is best addressed by focusing on risk to the community, not on who can afford to pay their way out of jail, and a system that supports that is essential to a fair and equal Illinois. It seems that Republicans are advocating for pretrial defendants to uniquely bear the cost of running our criminal justice system, which is not only unfair but also racist, as found by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.