Former prosecutor says Illinois’ SAFE-T Act an ‘experiment’



(The Center Square) – As Illinois prosecutors deal with provisions of the SAFE-T Act, including cashless bail, the long-term repercussions remain to be seen.

State’s attorneys already are voicing concerns about some people facing charges who are able to avoid jail and who could commit additional crimes or not show up for court.

Northern Illinois University law professor and former prosecutor Dan McConkie said it is a myth that everyone who commits a crime will walk.

“It is true that we are going to see I believe fewer people detained, but it’s simply not true that people won’t be detained anymore,” McConkie said.

Jeffrey Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition, said there are several serious crimes that will allow a person to avoid jail time.

“The question now is what is the detention list and I have obtained a copy and I can tell you that there are going to be some really serious offenders who are not going to be going to jail,” Clayton said.

One example is after the Illinois State Police made one of the largest drug busts in its 100-year history in September, when they seized over 5,000 pounds of illegal marijuana near the Quad Cities, a judge allowed two Texas men to go free on pretrial conditions.

Another case involved the robbery of a high-end boutique in Hinsdale where a gang used a sledgehammer to shatter a window before making off with nearly $70,000 worth of merchandise. Blood was left at the scene, and DNA testing matched the DNA to an individual on parole who was convicted of armed robbery and aggravated battery. The man subsequently was able to walk free without posting bail.

Recently, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally blasted the SAFE-T Act on social media, highlighting non-detainable offenses like aggravated battery and strangulation, and said the law is a “far cry from being safe.”

Since the Pretrial Fairness Act went into effect in September, some Illinois counties are grappling with meeting the demands of the new law due to a lack of resources in rural areas.

McConkie admits that the SAFE-T Act and some of its provisions are a work in progress.

“Illinois is going farther than any other state in the country on this and it’s quite a large experiment with quite a large state criminal justice system, but I think evidence from other jurisdictions is encouraging” McConkie said.



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