Illinois’ reckless no-bail law puts criminals ahead of victims

Thanks to a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, Illinois will soon become the first state in the U.S. to completely eliminate cash bail. Many have accurately called this “America’s most dangerous law,” and police officers in the state fear it will dramatically increase crime.

While some would argue that cash bail needlessly puts people behind bars while they await trial thereby castigating people before conviction, the evidence is clear — eliminating cash bail hurts more people than it helps. 

New York City recently eliminated cash bail in a more limited manner. After the bail “reform” was implemented, more than 72 percent of those arrested on violent felony charges were re-arrested — a 10 percent increase in reoffending.  

California has also experimented with this idea. In Yolo County, Calif., the district attorney found that of 595 people released under their zero-bail policies in 2022. Of those, 420 were rearrested. In other words, more than 70 percent of those who benefitted from zero cash bail used their newfound freedom to commit more crimes.

In short, by completely eliminating cash bail, cities and states risk releasing dangerous individuals back into society without even any financial incentive to appear for their trials. 

Of course, violent crime is not the only concern. The New York Times recently reported that 327 people were collectively arrested and re-arrested over 6,000 times for shoplifting in 2022 alone. This relatively tiny handful of people accounted for nearly one-third of all shoplifting crimes in the city. These types of bail “reforms” are what has also led to organized shoplifting crews whose members have grown insanely bold, knowing that getting caught will lead to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. These crews steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at a time and then sell their stolen goods through online marketplaces.  

What’s worse is that this law is set to take effect in a state that is home to a city already known as the murder capital of America — Chicago. The lack of self-awareness would be funny if it weren’t so consequential. 

Zero-cash bail policies lead to more violent crime, which directly hurts victims, and property crimes, which harm countless families through higher prices. 

And it is undeniable that higher crime affects minority communities worse. Studies show that higher crime tends to disproportionately harm minority youth in particular.

Illinois’ adoption of zero-cash bail will not only hurt more Illinois residents, but it will especially harm the state’s 40 percent non-white population. Minority communities will likely continue to suffer higher rates of crime at an even higher volume, supposedly all in the name of equity and anti-racism. 

The idea that someone is “innocent until proven guilty” is an important doctrine in American criminal law, as it protects average citizens from an overzealous government wishing indiscriminately to throw people in prison in the name of crime and safety.  But as with everything, there is a balance to be struck. Zero-cash bail tilts the scale dramatically in favor of repeat and even violent criminals while leaving innocent people, especially minority residents, to become their victims. 

Gabriel Nadales is the national director of Our America. 

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