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Cash bail eliminated in the State of Illinois

Written by on September 22, 2023

NORMAL, Ill. – The state of Illinois officially ended cash bail on September 18, implementing the most controversial section of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s SAFE-T Act.

The Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act was signed in 2021 but its biggest change to the criminal justice system did not go into effect until this week.

From the time the act was signed in 2021 till today, the act was often misinformed as a “purge act”. Supporters of the act cited the inability of some defendants not being able to afford their cash bail, despite their crimes being nonviolent, especially affecting minorities. Critics of the act argued the wording of the act was too vague and it would be dangerous to communities due to apparent lack of research.

Misinformation sprouted from one of the key changes to the bill, under which judges would determine if individuals accused of certain crimes would be deemed a flight risk to others, in place of cash bail. If they were determined as a risk, they may not be released. Instead, they would be taken to a pretrial hearing for further determination if they should be held before their trial. Known as “forcible felonies”, crimes that would be subject to this include murder, sexual offenses, stalking and domestic battery. 

Due to the misinformation, many people were left confused as to what the act actually contained, including students at Illinois State University. Freshmen at ISU Noah Patterson is one of many students that don’t know of the act at all.

Similarly, ISU student Emily Tibbs also did not know what the act was about. However, both students did have opinions after learning what it is. Patterson showed concern for what judges would decide is worthy of keeping defendants in jail, while Tibbs expressed dissatisfaction with cash bail.

However, after learning of the act Patterson shared the sentiment of many critics.

“It’s a bit of an uncertainty since I don’t know too much about it, but I guess I would agree with what the common concern is,” Patterson said.

Comparatively, Tibbs recognized the concerns of the act’s supporters, that cash bail can be unfair to some and should have reform.

“Cash bail, I feel like it can be a good thing, but it can also be a somewhat bad thing,” Tibbs said. “Some people can be bad but if they have money, they can also be taken out of jail for the wrong reasons.”

The SAFE-T act has proven to be controversial after over two years of court challenges and domination of news cycles. Darren Bailey challenged Pritzker for governor in the 2022 midterm elections, a center point of his campaign being the opposition of the act.
While cash bail was a center point of the act, it also brought criminal justice reform to pre-arrest diversion, general policing, sentencing and corrections.