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Will electronic monitoring replace cash bail?

Monday, Sep 18, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* There’s so much info out there today that I thought I’d divide the SAFE-T Act implementation day into some chunks. Let’s start with electronic monitoring. Here’s Hannah Meisel

While Illinois isn’t any closer to creating a statewide public defender system, the Illinois Office of Statewide Pretrial Services represents a major step forward in providing resources to judicial systems across the state. Starting Oct. 1, OSPS will partner with 71 counties. For months, it’s been offering services such as compiling information about new arrestees. […]

In August, OSPS began oversight of electronic monitoring in participating counties, and began picking up the tab for those ordered to wear the GPS tracking devices – fees that would sometimes drive the poorest defendants into debt.

[St. Clair County Public Defender Cathy MacElroy] said she was glad her clients would no longer be saddled with the cost. But she also noted that in St. Clair County, electronic monitoring isn’t used “a ton.”

She predicted that, under the PFA, judges might even order ankle monitors less often, as prosecutors would have to present specific findings for why the GPS tracking would be necessary. The PFA requires judges to find the “least restrictive” pretrial conditions necessary for a defendant, and the law provides that individuals on electronic monitoring can have two days per week to move freely so they can accomplish daily tasks.

* Others disagree, according to the Tribune

Last month, the state rolled out a new program that will provide electronic monitoring in 70 counties, the first time it has been overseen by one agency across such a wide swath of Illinois, according to the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services.

But the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, an organization that worked to pass the abolition of cash bail, put out a statement criticizing the statewide electronic monitoring program, arguing that expanding such programs violate the “spirit” of the Pretrial Fairness Act.

“It feels like a half-baked plan that somebody put together to convince someone the (state is) doing something so that the streets aren’t running wild with criminals,” said James Kilgore, who works for a reentry program in downstate Champaign and is a researcher for an organization challenging electronic monitoring programs.

Kilgore said awaiting trial on house arrest can make it difficult for people to keep jobs and meet daily needs.


The advocates are also voicing concerns about the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services, a new agency created by the Illinois Supreme Court. Cara Smith, the office’s director, announced in August that OSPS was assuming responsibility for electronic monitoring in 70 of the state’s 102 counties. Her announcement talked up EM as “a tool to reduce jail populations, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to monitor domestic violence and other high-risk offenders.”

As of [last] week, those 70 counties have roughly 100 individuals on EM, Smith told WBEZ.

Smith’s announcement tied the electronic monitoring effort to this coming Monday, when cash bail ends: “By September 18th, active GPS electronic monitoring will be available to all OSPS counties at no cost to the county and at no cost to the defendant.”

But Smith said the timing does not mean her office is urging judges to order EM as a substitute for cash bail.

“It couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Smith said. “We are working to try to serve the counties whom we serve as their pretrial agency and have been working virtually around the clock to transition those existing cases over.”

* But

[McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally] said his office will find ways to ensure dangerous offenders remain behind bars pre-trial. When that is not possible, he said measures, such as electronic monitoring, will be put in place to minimize risk.


  1. - Notorious JMB - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 10:38 am:

    The other side of the coin on this is that sometimes cash bail is the only way the victims receive restitution. My grandparents never had much more than minimum wage jobs and owned a small trucking company that at its best broke even. A few years ago, one of the local crackheads stole about 20 thousand dollars worth of equipment off of them. The judge ordered him to pay restitution but being an unemployable drug addict he doesnt have a job, there is no income to garnish, and the only time my grandparents ever saw any money was when he was arrested and posted bail. They have since retired as the years have caught up with them and they are dealing with significant health issues.

    With the end of cash bail they are not going to see the money owed at a time in their life when they could really use it.

  2. - Give Us Barabbas - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 10:46 am:

    Jailed in your house is still being jailed. If you’re being charged for the ankle monitor, that’s the same as paying bail. Aren’t ankle monitors supposed to be for flight risks or people under an order of protection to stay away from a certain place or person? Say, an accused wife beater?

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 11:16 am:

    ===The other side of the coin on this is that sometimes cash bail is the only way the victims receive restitution===

    Is one presumed innocent, first?

    This presumes guilt, no?

    So I’m understanding correctly. Thanks.

  4. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 11:27 am:

    - Notorious JMB -

    So I’m clear and using frivolous shorthand which seems callous, there’s an overarching effect with micro examples that prove the rule.

    The goal of the law versus the impact to what is in cases that might even be seen different now as opposed to then, this kind of Act is changing more than laws, it’s changing culture and how we all see pretrial incarceration.

    That’s why I asked, as I asked, not to the pointed example you gave.

    With respect.

  5. - Rabid - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 11:30 am:

    You violate your monitor, you go back to jail?

  6. - Chicagonk - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 11:34 am:

    Criminal rights groups continue to move the goal posts - electronic monitoring is clearly their next target.

  7. - Lowdrag - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 11:40 am:

    For some the ankle monitor may work, others not so much!

  8. - Johnny Pneumonic - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 11:42 am:

    Is this the same Cara Smith who was a top advisor to Sherriff Tom Dart, and was appointed to be a judge in an overwhelmingly Black sub- circuit despite her total lack of courtroom experience?

    Appointed to the bench by none other than Justice Ann Burke?

    I mean, you can see why people have questions about her commitment to equity, liberty and Justice.

  9. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 11:47 am:

    Since you get credit for having a monitor I would think you would be happy to have a monitor. Wear it stretch out your case for a year or two get sentenced to two years get a day for a day so out in a year then get a year credit for monitor end up no prison time

  10. - Excitable Boy - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 12:00 pm:

    - sometimes cash bail is the only way the victims receive restitution -

    That isn’t the purpose of bail.

  11. - Leap Day William - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 12:02 pm:

    == Criminal rights groups continue to move the goal posts - electronic monitoring is clearly their next target. ==

    Nobody is a criminal until they’re convicted, unless you disagree with the fundamental belief that one is innocent until proven guilty. Is that the position you are taking?

  12. - Notorious JMB - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 2:47 pm:

    OW. Thank you for the clarification, your second comment was much better received than the first. Criminal justice is not my area of expertise, but I am familiar with the arguments behind the new law. My question is, what is the solution for people like my grandparents who were victims as determined in a court of law? Are they just left without any recompense?

  13. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 18, 23 @ 2:52 pm:

    ===for people like my grandparents===

    I can’t speak to, nor will I, to your own example, and I appreciate you hearing/reading my clarification, thank you. Because of that, bail then, or now to that case if presented, that’s up to first if there’s bail at all.

    The question remains, these are alleged crimes, presuming guilt is the question to an overall.

    Be well, my best forward with your family too.

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