Illinois Shakes the Nation


Illinois has become the first state in the United States to completely abolish cash bail.

This decision, effective from September 18, 2023, is being hailed by some as a victory for social justice, while others see it as a dangerous precedent that could potentially benefit criminals.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the Pretrial Fairness Act provision of the Safety, Accountability, Equity, Transparency-Today (SAFE-T) Act.

This ruling meant the cash bail system would be eliminated in Illinois within 60 days. The reform was initially set to take effect on January 1, 2023, but got delayed by the state’s highest court.

Democratic lawmakers in Illinois have championed this new law, which aims to overhaul the state’s criminal justice system. However, critics argue this could lead to the release of individuals accused of serious felonies without any bail while they await their court dates.

These felonies include second-degree murder, aggravated battery, arson, drug-induced homicide, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, intimidation, aggravated DUI, aggravated fleeing and eluding, drug offenses, and threatening a public official.

The SAFE-T Act, signed into law by Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, seeks to transform the pretrial detention system so that low-income individuals are not disproportionately incarcerated while wealthier individuals can secure their freedom.

The Act also aims to divert low-level drug crimes into substance-treatment programs and reduce excessive stays in prison. However, the Republican Mayor of Orland Park, Keith Pekau, voiced strong opposition against the new law.

In a press conference earlier this year, Pekau argued the law would infringe upon the constitutional rights of victims. He pointed out the law abolishes cash bail for almost every offense, including serious crimes like kidnapping, armed robbery, and second-degree murder.

Pekau also raised concerns about the provision in the law that requires individuals on electronic monitoring to be in violation for 48 hours before law enforcement can act.

He argued this could potentially allow offenders to evade law enforcement for a significant period before any action can be taken.

Furthermore, Pekau warned the law could prevent police officers from removing trespassers from residences or businesses. This, he argued, could pose a significant threat to the residents of Orland Park, Cook County, and Illinois as a whole.