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Senate Democrats: Bail decisions should not be based on ability to pay

bail reformToday, a new law passed by the Senate to base bail decisions on a defendant’s threat to public safety and flight risk rather than their ability to pay bail became law. The Bail Reform Act of 2017, sponsored by State Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), was signed by the governor and goes into effect immediately.

“Pretrial release must not focus on the defendants’ ability to pay,” said Trotter. “This new law allows the courts to look at the threat to the public safety or their risk of failure to appear.”

Senate Bill 2034 grants a number of rights to defendants, including the right to a public defender or attorney at their bail hearing, the right to a new bail hearing, and that any bail set should be non-monetary and that the court should address the risk in the least restrictive way possible.

“It is unjust for someone’s wealth to determine whether they stay in jail while awaiting a trial, rather than the nature of their alleged crime,” State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) said. “The cash bond system disproportionately harms lower-income offenders, often leaving low-risk offenders in jail and contributing to the overcrowding of the prison system. The legislation that becomes law today will ensure that a person’s threat to public safety determines their potential release, not the amount of money in their bank account.”

Additionally, this legislation encourages the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to implement a data-driven, validated, statewide risk assessment tool to determine if a defendant is a danger to the community or a flight risk.

“I am proud that Illinois' outdated system of monetary bail is finally being reformed," Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) said. "Low-risk offenders should not be forced to stay in jail because they can't afford bail. We should be investing in our neighborhoods, in social services and in job training programs to lift people up, instead of spending money to detain someone who is not a threat to public safety.”