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Illinois Lawmakers Hear Pleas to End Jail Bond

An estimated 250,000 people are jailed in Illinois awaiting trial, largely because they can't afford to pay the cash bail amount that was set. (Adobe Stock)
An estimated 250,000 people are jailed in Illinois awaiting trial, largely because they can't afford to pay the cash bail amount that was set. (Adobe Stock)
February 25, 2020

CHICAGO -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently revealed his intention to end the use of cash bail or what is known as "money bond" in Illinois, and it's an effort advocates for criminal justice reform hope state lawmakers will get behind.

Sharlyn Grace, executive director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, argued the use of money bond is a form of wealth-based discrimination that contributes to racial inequality. She added pretrial detention can have ripple effects throughout a person's life.

"[They are] More likely to be convicted, longer sentences, losing jobs, losing housing and sometimes, losing custody of their children," Grace said. "These can be very long-term consequences, all based on access to money."

Community groups from around the state will convene in Springfield Tuesday to ask legislators to support pretrial justice reforms, including ending the setting of money bond. An estimated 250,000 people are jailed in Illinois while awaiting trial.

Grace said in a fair system, pretrial release should be the norm, and detention a limited exception.

"The standard should be relatively high for losing one's freedom while you're presumed innocent," she said. "That's what the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution require. It just hasn't been the practice in Illinois for a long time."

She added research has shown that people who are released awaiting trial have better outcomes and are less likely to be arrested again in the future.

"Changing to a fairer system, a more transparent system, is going to benefit everyone and ultimately, make our communities safer," she said. "Because keeping people in communities and supporting them while they're awaiting trial is going to lead to more stability."

The Chicago Community Bond Fund is among the organizations involved in the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, which has a broader goal of ending mass incarceration and addressing socioeconomic and racial inequity in the justice system.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL