Illinois lawmakers discussed further phasing out cash bond requirements for people arrested for low-level criminal offenses.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law in 2017 that required a bail hearing for people couldn’t afford to bond out of jail. Now, lawmakers are looking into whether they should institute a “no-cash bail” system, possibly for those facing low-level felonies as well.
White County State’s Attorney Denton Aud told lawmakers a high bond is a de facto way to keep dangerous people off the street.
“If the General Assembly believes that something is serious enough to be a Class 3 or Class 4 felony, maybe it shouldn’t be a felony if they don’t need to be in jail,” he said.
Other state’s attorneys gave instances where dangerous domestic abuse suspects could be released and return to their homes.
State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said poor people are often stuck in jail while awaiting trial while wealthy people can be back on the streets in hours.
“Inability to pay puts people in a position where they are more willing to accept a guilty plea because they have been deprived of their humanity for a period of time,” he said.
Studies also show that pretrial detention can create other hardships, including possible job loss and housing loss.
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, said cash bond on those convicted goes to pay for valuable programs that often keep people out of the criminal justice system.
“We ought to think about this before we get rid of cash bonds,” she said. “Where’s CASA going to be funded?”
Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, provides court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children.
No legislation was passed on the matter, but there are a number of bills that would change the process.
House Bill 1609 would give a $30 credit for each day a person who cannot afford bond spends in jail awaiting trial.
House Bill 221, on the other hand, would allow county boards to opt out of the 2017 bail reforms.