Six-Month Update of Illinois Bail Reform, the Pretrial Fairness Act


By Jonathan Nunez

CHICAGO, IL – This Monday, March 18, will mark the six-month period of a newly implemented legislation in Illinois, the Pretrial Fairness Act, according to the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.

The group said the Pretrial Fairness Act was first introduced in January 2021, and “restores the presumption of innocence and makes Illinois safer by ending money bonds and the unconstitutional practice of caging people pretrial simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.”

The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice reports the overall jail population has decreased because “[p]eople are no longer held in jail simply because they cannot afford to bail themselves out. The law is ensuring that more people maintain employment, housing, and positive family and social connections while awaiting trial in the community.”

The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice notes the reduction in jails has had a plethora of benefits.

INPJ stated those benefits include,  “The reduction means that jails are not overcrowded, incarcerated people and staff aren’t as stressed, and county governments are saving money.”

The reform group added, “These reductions have important implications for fairness in the justice system. People jailed pretrial are more likely to be convicted and serve longer sentences than those who are not incarcerated as they await trial, ensuring the justice system is more equitable.”

INPJ said,  “Research from other jurisdictions indicate that we can take steps towards ending mass incarceration without a dramatic increase in crime,” noting “detention hearings were brief—four minutes on average—and judges primarily chose dollar amounts with little attention to other conditions of release or outright detention.”

Now, claims Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, with the implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act, detention hearings are reported to average at 22 minutes.

“Courts now make individualized inquiries into an accused person’s risk to a specific person or their community and/or their risk of flight while awaiting trial. Accused people are represented by an attorney who can present evidence about their client’s circumstances for the judge’s consideration,” adds Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.

“Wealth-based pretrial detention has taken resources from communities for decades, disproportionately impacting communities of color and families living in poverty,” said Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.

The Civic Federation for the Illinois Supreme Court Task Force reports, “From 2016 to 2020, Illinoisans paid anywhere from $121 million to over $154 million dollars a year in money bonds.”

However, because of the newly-appointed bill, Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice said there’s an economic change for the better, and, “Money will now remain with family members across the state to contribute to the overall well-being and economic security of entire communities.”

“There is no evidence that pretrial reform is connected to increased crime, and it is dangerous to jump to conclusions that blame newly implemented laws for changes in crime rates. It is inappropriate to draw conclusions about the Pretrial Fairness Act without also considering other factors that impact crime, particularly from a single jurisdiction and/or a short period of time,” added Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.

“Many opponents of the Pretrial Fairness Act suggest that judges release people simply because they are required to under the new law and that, before, judges would have held them on unaffordable bail,” said Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, calling the belief “misleading.”

In fact, “Before enactment of pretrial reform, most people paid their bonds within a week—even when charged with offenses now eligible for detention. Judges could set high or low bail, and many set low bail that people could pay.”

About The Author

Jonathan is a fourth year UC Davis student pursuing a major in English and a minor in Professional Writing and African American Studies. By working alongside the Vanguard Court Watch, Jonathan not only hopes to deepen his passion for criminal justice, but he also wishes to deepen the connection he has with his community through his writing. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys hanging out with his friends and making short stories about the world around him.

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