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History-making no-cash bail decision praised by some, criticized by others

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(The Center Square) – After the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a state law ending cash bail, some are applauding the decision while others say communities will be less safe.

The 5-2 vote comes six months after the state’s highest court halted the bail provision from taking effect amid legal challenges.

The ruling overturns a Kankakee County judge’s opinion in December that the law violated the constitution’s provision that “all persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties.”

The cash bail provision was to go into effect Jan. 1, but it was challenged by lawsuits from prosecutors and sheriffs across the state.

The General Assembly, with Democrats holding a supermajority, narrowly approved the plan in January 2021 as part of an expansive overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system known as the SAFE-T Act.

“Today’s ruling in favor of the Pretrial Fairness Act ensures that Illinois will end money bond, one of the most glaring injustices in our criminal legal system,” the Coalition to End Money Bond said in a statement.

Law enforcement around the state were vocal in their opposition to ending cash bail. Following the ruling, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge President Chris Southwood said the ruling confirms Illinois’ status as the state of lawlessness and disorder.

“The court ignored the pleas of nearly every prosecutor in the state of Illinois, Democrat and Republican, that the elimination of cash bail will put dangerous criminals back on the street, instead of keeping them in jail or forcing them to post cash bail as they await trial,” he said in a statement.

During a news conference, state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, took a jab at those who worry about public safety.

“A repeatedly disgusting fight by right wingers who don’t care about people’s safety and play dirty politics with people’s lives. I’m disappointed in those right wingers,” said Peters.

Illinois Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, is calling on state lawmakers to return to Springfield for a special session to address the SAFE-T Act before cash bail is abolished.

“While no person should be held in jail or let free because of their economic circumstances, the SAFE-T Act handcuffs law enforcement and judges, making it more difficult for them to combat crime,” Curran said in a statement.

Courts across the state will now have two months to get ready for the bail rules to go into effect on Sept. 18.

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