Illinois eliminated cash bail as a condition of pretrial release Monday after a state Supreme Court decision this summer ruled that a new law abolishing the practice was constitutional.
That law, the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, makes Illinois the first state in the nation to completely get rid of monetary cash bail.
Defendants accused of a specific list of felonies and violent misdemeanors can still be detained ahead of trial, but the burden will be on the state to argue the defendant poses a flight risk or a danger to the community.
Cash bail has been decried as a “penalty on poverty,” with opponents of the practice claiming it gives preferential treatment to wealthy people who can afford to “pay for their freedom,” as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) put it after the state’s high court upheld the law.
“This landmark ruling refutes false narratives about cash bail. The truth is that abolishing cash bail improves public safety by allowing people to return to their communities and families who would otherwise be in jail only because they can’t pay for their freedom,” the ACLU wrote in a statement in July after the ruling.
“When people can go home, take care of their families, and keep up with school or work, that stability makes all our communities safer and stronger,” the group added.
Opponents of the move worry that it will weaken law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe by locking up suspected criminals.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told NBC News in Chicago that they were prepared to implement the new law.
“As a result of nearly two years of thoughtful and collaborative preparation, Cook County is ready to implement the new procedures required by the Pretrial Fairness Act,” Preckwinkle told NBC. “As our court system transitions to the new procedures, my administration will continue to provide resources and support to ensure our continued success.”
Starting Monday, those defendants currently jailed under a cash bail order will get a release hearing.
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