Illinois to be first state to eliminate cash bail, governor announces

Governor J.B. Pritzker calls signing HB 3653 'a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities.'

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Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced that he will eliminate cash bail in the state of Illinois.

The declaration, made as part of new legislation related to reforming Illinois’ criminal justice system, also included increased accountability for police officers, their use of mandatory body cameras among the changes.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Monday the “legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities.” (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

In a statement Monday, Pritzker said, “This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state, and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice.”

“In this terrible year, in the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt Black people and Brown people disproportionately, lawmakers fought to address the pandemic of systemic racism in the wake of national protests,” the Democrat maintained. “This bill was also infused with solutions from individuals most directly impacted: survivors of domestic violence, survivors of crime and those who have been detained pre-trial only because they are poor.”

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Judges in Illinois can no longer set any kind of bail for defendants, a practice that lawmakers had been trying to end via legislation, according to the state’s Black Caucus. Judges now will determine whether or not a defendant should be detained for trial based on evidence presented about the risk their release poses to the community at large and whether he or she will get back to court as expected.

The sweeping House Bill 3653 will also divert low-level drug crimes to substance abuse programs, invest in officer training, mental health and officer wellness. It will also enhance certification procedures for new officers and expand services for victims of crime.

Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton noted the timing of the legislation was significant, with it being signed during Black History Month.

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“I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for Governor Pritzker and members of the Illinois Black Caucus,” Stratton said. “They used their seats of power to effectuate change that will alter the trajectory of lives, families and entire communities for generations to come.”

The bill will also abolish license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees due to red light cameras and traffic offenses, plus expand services for crime victims. To prepare for the new state system, officials said Illinois’ cash bail system will not be eliminated until January 2023.

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