State Watch

Illinois governor signs bill making state the first to end cash bail

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed sweeping criminal justice reform legislation this week, making his state the first in the nation to end cash bail.

In an announcement detailing the legislation, which the governor signed into law on Monday, Pritzker’s office said the policy action will help move the state “from a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth, to one that prioritizes public safety.” The practice of cash bail in the country has drawn criticism as one that disproportionately impacts people of color and those with low income, while benefiting defendants with wealthier backgrounds.

The move to end the practice is just one of a number of policy actions included in House Bill 3653 that the governor’s office says is aimed at expanding “safety, fairness, and justice by transforming the state’s criminal justice system.”

Other actions included in the bill that are outlined in the announcement include mandating use of body-worn cameras in police departments across the state, setting statewide standards on use of force, de-escalation and arrest techniques, as well as doing away with license suspensions over unpaid fines and fees from certain traffic offenses. 

Pritzker said in a statement that the legislation “marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice.”

“In this terrible year, in the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt Black people and Brown people disproportionately, lawmakers fought to address the pandemic of systemic racism in the wake of national protests,” he continued.

“This bill was also infused with solutions from individuals most directly impacted: survivors of domestic violence, survivors of crime, and those who have been detained pre-trial only because they are poor,” the governor added.

The governor also credited the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for its efforts spearheading the bill against opposition from Republicans. 

State Sen. Elgie Sims (D), a member of the caucus, said the reforms should be “the first steps we take to transform criminal justice in Illinois.” 

“We must reimagine accountability. We must reimagine transparency. We must reimagine incarceration. These reforms are a beginning,” he said. 

“This historic moment is the result of a monumental effort on the part of countless people, from those who testified during the 30 hours of public hearings on these issues, to those who have pushed for some of these reforms for years, and especially to the Illinoisans who signaled their support,” Sims said. “I thank them for lifting up their voices and never giving up, and I thank Gov. Pritzker for making these measures the law of the land. The journey continues.” 

“For a decade now we’ve worked to reduce our reliance on the antiquated system of cash bail in Cook County; and our efforts have shown that we have been able to do so safely,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. 

“This work, coupled with the decades of advocacy and expertise from throughout the state and from the communities most affected by crime, have informed this brave and just piece of legislation,” Preckwinkle added.


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