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Pritzker pressed again on SAFE-T Act changes

Wednesday, Oct 19, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release from yesterday…

Representative Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) and Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) join crime survivors’ advocates at a press conference on Tuesday to fiercely oppose the misguided, late-stage trailer bill (Senate Bill 4228) that was orchestrated by conservative states attorneys.

The advocates highlighted three core elements of the prosecutors’ trailer bill that would not only undermine reforms, but move Illinois even further backwards, especially where it concerns survivors.

    * SB 4228 removes the requirement that State’s attorneys are responsible for notifying victims about detention hearings (Page 69, lines 20-21).
    * SB 4228 creates a system where low-level, nonviolent cases will clog up our pretrial detention system, rather than focusing on serious cases (Page 5, lines 7-9; page 60, lines 7-16).
    * Creating a “presumption of detention” is unconstitutional, and particularly harmful to criminalized survivors of violence (Page 11, lines 14-15; page 19, lines 7-9; page 62, lines 12-22; page 63, lines 7-16).

“The supporters of the prosecutors’ trailer bill are knowingly undermining the lived experience of survivors and advocates who fought for and won the provision of the Pretrial Fairness Act that requires States Attorneys to notify victims of crimes about detention hearings,” said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Survivors do not want to be left in the dark, with potentially life-threatening consequences.”

“The shared goal of the Pretrial Fairness Act reforms is to better use the criminal legal system to make us all safer,” said Radhika Sharma-Gordon, Manager, Outreach and Education at Apna Ghar, Inc. “This means freeing up unnecessary resources spent on detaining low-level, low-risk people who’ve been accused of a crime. The prosecutors’ trailer bill seeks to maintain the failed status quo by creating a “catch-all” provision that allows for prosecutors to move for detention on any charge, which is not only a waste of resources, but it diverts attention from the cases that truly need careful and considered review in court.”

Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, prosecutors and law enforcement actually get the time and resources they need to work on cases that impact community safety, instead of spending their days dragging people into bond court for misdemeanors and petty offenses. Under a more focused system they can actually spend their time focusing on the 80 to 90 percent of sex crime reports in Chicago that don’t lead to any arrests. Law enforcement statewide could also spend more time on the 34,000 people in Illinois who have had their right to own a gun revoked by courts – many of whom with domestic violence backgrounds – who have not turned in their weapons or had them confiscated by law enforcement.

“Not only does the prosecutors’ trailer bill undermine the shared goals of the Pretrial Fairness Act, it also undermines the Constitution,” said Kaethe Morris Hoffer, executive director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. “We all agree that a presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of our criminal legal system and any legitimate democratic government. That’s why it’s unthinkable that our elected State’s Attorneys have drafted a bill that creates a presumption of detention. Not only is it unconstitutional but it contradicts the democratic institutions our criminal legal system is ostensibly supposed to protect.”

The open letter is here.

* Capitol News Illinois did a story on the letter. Here’s an excerpt

Another unmentioned change contained in [Sen. Scott Bennett’s] bill is a provision to ensure that the end of cash bail does not apply to individuals who were held in lieu of bail prior to Jan. 1, 2023. It addresses one of the main concerns of opponents, that those held before Jan. 1 may be entitled to release depending on how a judge interprets the existing language.

That provision has been called the “Purge Law” by some over the top detractors. Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow has said he’d be forced to empty his jail in an “end of days” scenario. The Lake County state’s attorney, on the other hand, has said he’s actually putting in the work to make sure everything is in order come the first of the year.

* Gov. Pritzker brought up that very change last night during the debate

Q: Governor you’ve accused Republicans of putting out disinformation about the legislation but the law does have critics from your own party, including State’s Attorneys who are suing you What steps are you taking to clarify what the law actually does?

Pritzker: Look, the folks who are critical of the SAFE-T Act and who are spreading disinformation want to let violent criminals out of jail on January 1. That’s not what the SAFE-T Act says. But if they’re going to try to do that, we ought to amend the SAFE-T Act to make sure they can’t do it. Let’s amend it, but not end it. […]

Q: …Today, the sponsors of the SAFE-T Act said they would not support the proposed changes by Democratic Senator Scott Bennett. You’ve previously called his proposal a ‘pretty good bill.’ Do you still feel that way?

Pritzker: Well as I’ve said, there are a lot of provisions in that bill. I think that we ought to be looking through all those provisions to decide which ones. I just suggested one that we ought to implement. But, look, Senator Bennett is a former prosecutor. He’s very thoughtful about these things. But as you know, I support the SAFE-T Act. Again, we ought to amend it appropriately. And make sure that we’re ending cash bail, while keeping murderers rapists and domestic abusers in jail.

* Sen. Bennett told Capitol News Illinois pretty much the same thing

Bennett said while much of the current conversation regarding “non-detainable” offenses stems from “misstatements on the right,” he filed the bill to erase any potential doubt.

“But if there was any ambiguity that some judge might misinterpret that, I think it’s fixed in (Senate Bill) 4228 and I think it makes it very clear that we want people out in the community if they are not a danger to the community. We want people getting back on the path to rehabilitation,” he said. “But I think we also need to recognize that there are people that threaten our society, and if there is an objective finding of that, I think everyone feels better if they are detained until they can have their day in court.”

* Quick coverage roundup from Isabel…

    * Debates continue among political parties over Illinois’ new SAFE-T Act: One state lawmaker filed a bill that amends language in the current law, while others in his party fired back, saying such changes would do more harm than good. “Right now, the system is broken and I am proud of my partners in the survivor advocacy community for coming to the table and staying at the table and getting changes that will make us all safer,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who adds that some of the changes fought for in the Safe-T Act are being threatened.

    * City of Moline votes down resolution addressing SAFE-T Act: But, only half of the council members supported the resolution. Mike Wendt gave his reasoning and stated, “It is important to give the city of moline one voice that we are supportive of our officers and our law-abiding residents.” The resolution addresses what they deemed major issues in the SAFE-T act, such as the removal of cash bail and unclear guidelines for law enforcement.

    * Kendall County Board approves resolution requesting changes to SAFE-T Act: The resolution received unanimous support from the board. During the meeting, State’s Attorney Eric Weis told the board that preparing for unknowns with the SAFE-T Act has been difficult. Kendall County, along with many others, has filed to suit to halt the act’s implementation.

    * Mike Halpin talks workers’ rights, inflation, SAFE-T Act in News 8 roundtable: The Democratic candidate for Illinois’s 36th Legislative District sat with News 8’s Shelby Kluver to showcase his policies and values ahead of the midterm elections.


  1. - Impressed - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 9:33 am:

    “Q: …Today, the sponsors of the SAFE-T Act said they would not support the proposed changes by Democratic Senator Scott Bennett. You’ve previously called his proposal a ‘pretty good bill.’ Do you still feel that way?”

    Credit to the moderators and the news director who put together this question and was actually on top of a news cycle in state government. That infrequently happens in these situations.

  2. - H-W - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 10:08 am:

    I really like, and find it very helpful, that the press release not only says what changes associated with SB 4228 are being discussed, and what is problematic, but also includes page references.

    If critics were expected as a matter of principle to include citation references regarding their concerns and language, perhaps government would function more smoothly.

    But as long as people do not read, including states attorneys and sheriffs (people who are elected), lay people will either believe or not believe, without any evidence before them.

    Ironically, Bailey suggests we need less educational spending with regard to creating citizens. smh

  3. - The Velvet Frog - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 10:10 am:

    It seems like the problem is less the law itself, and more that some law enforcement sounds like they are going to intentionally make the situation worse. I’m glad he’s pointing that out.

  4. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 10:25 am:

    “I think that we ought to be looking through all those provisions… I just suggested one that we ought to implement. But, look, Senator Bennett is a former prosecutor. He’s very thoughtful about these things…I support the SAFE-T Act. Again, we ought to amend it appropriately”

    So JB now is having to address progressive Dems and State’s Attorney issues with the Safe-T Act and the trailer. If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

  5. - The Velvet Frog - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 11:04 am:

    There’s an election in a couple weeks. Someone has a very different definition of “losing”.

  6. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 11:26 am:

    Slaughter and Cassidy are politically tone deaf. And ICADV certainly doesn’t speak for all domestic violence survivors.

  7. - The Velvet Frog - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 11:35 am:

    Their comments seem pretty reasonable to me. I’d say notifying victims is a good thing, hard to see what’s tone deaf about that.

  8. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 12:00 pm:

    ===And ICADV certainly doesn’t speak for all domestic violence survivors===

    Don’t think they ever claimed that, but you do you and decide for everyone.

  9. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 12:02 pm:

    @VelvetFrog - Thankfully they cite their specific disagreements with the trailer bill. The changes in the trailer bill should be uncontroversial and you can look them up, but the immediate defensive stance taken by the two legislators to any changes and the use of the ICADV as a shield (basically inferring that any change to the law is dangerous to domestic violence survivors which is patently absurd) is a tone deaf position to take 3 weeks before an election.

  10. - JoeMaddon - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 12:13 pm:

    You know who also doesn’t speak for all domestive violence survivors> Chicagonk.

    Cassidy/Slaughter are not using ICADV as a shield. ICADV are willingly supporting the bill because of their strong belief that the SAFE-T Act is actually better for domestic violence victims.

    I could believe random CapFax commenter Chicagonk. Or I could believe the group that has decades of experience advocating for domestic violence victims. Hmm… tough choice.

  11. - TR - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 12:49 pm:

    The SAFE-T Act opponents have taken advantage of some ambiguous and inconsistent language to make disingenuous arguments against the law, like the “purge” nonsense. Seems like a good idea to clean that up.

  12. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 12:59 pm:

    =If you’re explaining, you’re losing.=

    He was asked a direct question and he gave an answer.

    Would you prefer that he run and hide from the press, refusing to answer questions, like bailey?

  13. - thisjustinagain - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 1:00 pm:

    Two possibilities why JB won’t get into specifics:
    1. He wants the Legislature to come to their own conclusions and amendments without tipping his hand on possible amendatory veto changes.
    2. He doesn’t want to lose votes by making suggestions this close to the election, so letting Legislators make their choices means he might not get a bill until after the election.

  14. - The Velvet Frog - Wednesday, Oct 19, 22 @ 1:29 pm:

    “to any changes”

    But that’s not the case. As you said, they cite their specific disagreements with the trailer bill.

    I tried to look up the specifics but haven’t been able to find the full text of SB4228. If its online somewhere, a link would be appreciated. In the meantime it’s hard to judge whether the changes “should be uncontroversial” or not. No question the law can be improved but the question is whether this bill is an improvement or something that defeats the purpose of the law.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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