Cook County Anticipates New Pretrial Fairness Act

Gavel with open book and scales on table

Gavel with open book and scales on table

By Claire Hsu

CHICAGO, IL – Cook County last week issued a press release in anticipation of the Pretrial Fairness Act starting Monday, which will serve as a change for those awaiting trial and the Illinois criminal justice system.

The Pretrial Fairness Act mitigates unreasonable cash bail and will modify pretrial practices so that information regarding sentencing is more accessible, states Cook County.

General Order 18.8a, initiated by Chief Judge Timothy Evans of the Cook County Circuit Court in 2017, served as a proponent for advocacy and began progress toward addressing the same issues detailed in the Pretrial Fairness Act, writes the group Pretrial Fairness.

According to Pretrial Fairness, General Order 18.8a prescribes reasonable monetary bonds and makes it more feasible for those charged with criminal acts to be free through pretrial.

In Cook County, where rates of recidivism for violent crimes have been reduced, there were no changes in the numbers of violent crimes, no effect on additional violent crimes in relation to those let go before standing trial, and a small number of people “on electronic monitoring” were again taken into custody for a felony crime, details Pretrial Fairness.

The Pretrial Fairness Act was enacted in 2021, and according to the Cook County press statement, it is supported by numerous individuals in the Cook County legal and criminal justice system, including the State Attorney, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Justice Advisory Council.

Ton Preckwinkle, President of the Cook County Board, said they are “immensely proud of the collaboration that has brought us here and we stand united as we move into this new phase of increased pretrial fairness. As our court system transitions to these new procedures, my administration will continue to provide resources and support to ensure our continued success,” reports the Cook County press release.

According to the Cook County press statement, the Pretrial Fairness Act is a component of the SAFE-T Act, changing the practice of monetary bonds during pretrial, changing the weight that money holds in the criminal justice system, and supporting the overall transformation of pretrials.

Kim Foxx, State Attorney at Cook County, said, “With the elimination of cash bail, Cook County stands as a beacon of justice where decisions are made on safety, not dollars,” details the Cook County press release.

“As we transition to the implementation phase, we will continue to work closely with Cook County’s court stakeholder agencies as well as partners from the research and advocacy and system-impacted communities. We will continue to observe and improve how our system functions, to best serve the residents and communities of Cook County,” asserts Justice Advisory Council’s Executive Director Avik Das.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled the Pretrial Fairness Act was not in violation of any rights on July 18, details Illinois Courts, and established the Committee on Pretrial Education, which offered learning programs for attorneys, judicial officers, and a Task Force to prompt the practices of the Pretrial Fairness Act.

Sharone R. Mitchell Jr of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, shares, “The Cook County Public Defender’s Office welcomes this new day of greater pretrial fairness for the clients we represent… Our office has created a Pretrial Division to staff Initial Appearances and Detention Hearings, and our expert criminal defense attorneys and other staff are fully trained in the law and the new processes.”

Iris Y. Martinez, Circuit Court of Cook County Clerk, added, “As we embark on the historic implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act here in Illinois, our office is fully prepared and will continue to engage and participate in the collaborative planning process of all of our criminal justice partners to ensure there is a successful outcome.”

About The Author

Claire Hsu is an undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Political Science and minoring in Sociology. She is interested in policies related to advocating for API rights and prisoner's rights across California. After graduation, Claire plans on attending law school and pursuing a career in law. She is most passionate about criminal law and intellectual property law.

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