Illinois Becomes First State to Eliminate Cash Bail

Governor signs bill into law
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2021 12:01 AM CST
Illinois Eliminates Cash Bail
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announces the expansion of a monthly food benefits program that will help approximately one million children across Illinois during a press conference at George Washington Middle School in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.   (Justin L. Fowler /The State Journal-Register via AP)

Illinois on Monday became the first state to do away with cash bail. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill into law, and said that piece of the legislation will take the state "from a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth to one that prioritizes public safety." Cash bail has long been criticized for disproportionately keeping people of color and those with low incomes behind bars before they've been convicted of any crime, while wealthier suspects walk free, the Hill reports. Cash bail will be eliminated statewide by 2023, Axios reports. WGN, which notes the legislation is both "historic and controversial," reports that under the new system, most defendants will be released while awaiting trial, unless a judge rules otherwise.

The legislation also mandates bodycams for police officers by 2025; eliminates license suspensions over unpaid fines and fees from certain traffic offenses; sets new procedures for no-knock warrants; gives people three phone calls after arrest instead of one; sets standards and expands training on police use of force, arrest and crowd control techniques, and de-escalation practices; expands the circumstances under which officers can be stripped of certification; and makes it easier, per the Chicago Tribune, to report and track police misconduct. Police unions and other law enforcement organizations had urged Pritzker to veto the bill. Similar proposals to end cash bail have been made in other states, NBC Chicago reports, and New Jersey has largely stopped using it. (Read more JB Pritzker stories.)

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