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On July 18th, we celebrated the Illinois Supreme Court in Rowe v. Raoul, which sent a ripple of excitement across the bail reform community nationwide. The court’s strong opinion in the case paves the way for the implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act, which will make Illinois the first state to completely abolish money bond.
This has been a hard-won victory for the Illinois Coalition to End Money Bond and partners across the state who envision ending wealth-based detention, while also safeguarding the presumption of innocence and advancing public safety. Though the path to get here has been contentious, now's the time for all those committed to safe and fair pretrial processes to come together to implement the Pretrial Fairness Act in a manner that is true to the law’s intent.
Fortunately, there is common ground for everyone. Nationally, ending cash bond has support across the political spectrum, for reasons ranging from limiting government overreach to combating the destabilizing impact of incarceration. All parties desire community safety and are committed to safeguarding fundamental rights. The presumption of innocence is not a radical idea; it’s foundational to our country’s criminal legal system.
Money bond has never fulfilled its promise of keeping communities safe. When people are released on a financial bond, they are no less likely to commit a new crime than someone who is released without financial conditions. Meanwhile, people are paying millions of dollars into an ineffective and unproven system. On the other hand, people who remain in the community without financial bonds are able to go to work, take care of their families, and fulfill court obligations.
Ending money bond also will decrease jail stays. Since 1970, the rate of people locked up in Illinois jails has nearly tripled, and 87 percent of people held are awaiting trial. Cook County’s own experience with bail reform resulted in an increase in people being released with no change in public safety outcomes. Other states have seen similar success when reducing the use of money bond; New Jersey’s jail population is now less than 60% of what it was before, with no negative impact on crime rates.
To be clear, the new law permits pretrial detention when it is deemed necessary. However, people who are locked up in jail become more destabilized—and are actually more likely to commit a crime in the future. Detention is not a pathway to community safety.
Our team at PJI is committed to supporting Illinois’ success as it implements the Pretrial Fairness Act in a way that advances equity, liberty, and safety. The eyes of the nation are now looking to Illinois. It is an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate that true safety and community stability are not created by attaching freedom to a person’s wealth, but rather, by upholding individuals’ constitutional rights and investing in policies that are proven to work.