Illinois will join more than a dozen states that have abolished cash bail when the pretrial fairness section of the SAFE-T Act takes effect in less than a week.
If Illinois follows California, New York, and New Jersey’s bail reform data, it should reduce the number of inmates without increasing crime.
Proponents claim cashless bail works, but it’s hard to adapt.
“No law is going to be entirely perfect,” said Christopher Porrino, New Jersey’s attorney general when cashless bail was established five years ago.
Porrino advised detaining a community threat but not a nonviolent offender who won’t miss court.
He claimed cashless bail works by balancing both sides of the equation.
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“You must trust prosecutors, judges, and defense lawyers to establish a balance.”
“You’re letting out people who will wreak havoc on the community too easy, or you’re detaining too many people who shouldn’t be detained,” he said. New Jersey’s system works because courts can imprison deadly defendants who can post bond, regardless of how high.
Illinois law releases many felony defendants without bail. (Inmates awaiting trial can apply for release, but prosecutors can ask judges to refuse dangerous defendants.)
However, judges can detain suspects facing first-degree murder, criminal sexual assault, house invasion, and other mandatory jail sentences. Last month, lawmakers expanded detainable offenses.
Prosecutors can persuade judges to hold defendants if they are flight risks or threats.
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Legislators defined public danger in their amendments. Prosecutors must convince a judge that a defendant is a “real and present threat to the safety of any person or individuals or the community, based on the specific articulable circumstances of the case.”
Illinois law also allows dangerous detention for “forcible felonies” and non-probational offenses. Domestic violence defendants may be detained.