(The Center Square) – It’s now up to the Illinois Supreme Court to decide what to do about ending Illinois’ cash-bail system.
The law ending cash bail statewide was initially passed with the SAFE-T Act in early 2021. Lawmakers have amended the law several times, including last fall when the Democratic majority modified it to allow denial of pretrial release for a slew of serious crimes, ranging from murder to kidnapping and more.
State’s attorneys from across the state weren’t swayed by the changes. They continued their litigation against the law and secured a ruling out of Kankakee County against implementing no-cash bail for more than 60 counties. On New Year’s Eve, the day before the law was to go into effect, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended the measure pending an appeal from the Pritzker administration, legislative leaders and the Illinois Attorney General.
During oral arguments in front of the Illinois Supreme Court Tuesday, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe raised concern that sheriffs will have to double the number of instances of deputy contacts with potentially dangerous criminals.
“Fascinating to listen to both sides,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in Normal Tuesday afternoon.
If the no-cash bail law he signed is restored, Pritzker insists violent criminals will remain behind bars at the judge’s discretion.
“It’s a more fair system than to have some people sitting in jail for days, weeks or months when they just don’t happen to have the few hundred dollars, or couple of thousand dollars, again when they’ve committed a nonviolent crime, to be let out,” Pritzker said.
Jeff Clayton with the American Bail Coalition said judges already have the ability to set lower bail for individuals of lesser means. Ending cash bail, he said, will reward offenders who fail to appear in court or have a lengthy criminal record of doing so in the past.
“Are first-timers who can’t afford bail stuck in jail, generally not, and I think Illinois being a progressive state, we’ve already seen that, that those people just don’t exist, and that’s exactly what we saw in New York,” Clayton told WMAY. “Laws like this benefit recidivist defendants.”
Pritzker said bail isn’t a deterrent, and remained confident his side will prevail.
“It’s clear to me that there’s one side has the much better argument on the SAFE-T Act and I think that will prevail,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker recently downplayed concerns raised over his million-dollar donation to two then-supreme court justice candidates now on the bench of seven. Such a perceived conflict is enough to taint the possible outcome, Judicial Integrity Project’s Chris Forsyth said.
“And if the public perceived that there is an impropriety, then there is an impropriety and it should be rectified,” Forsyth told The Center Square.
Pritzker had previously said it’s “ridiculous” to suggest the justices recuse themselves on controversial issues involving him as the governor and as the lead defendant.
A ruling on no-cash bail isn’t expected for weeks.
This article First appeared in the center square