From Mother Jones: Illinois Has Become First State to Eliminate Cash Bail.
After a months-long legal battle, the state became the first in the nation to eliminate cash bail thanks to a provision in a sweeping criminal justice reform law that went into effect on Monday. The Pretrial Fairness Act, a part of the expansive SAFE-T Act, was designed to protect people facing charges from being detained before their trial based solely on their inability to afford bail.
This is a fundamental change to the the criminal justice system. More than 80 percent of people in U.S. jails under local authority have not been convicted and are therefore legally innocent of the crime of which they have been accused.
80%. Not convicted. In jail. Because most cannot post bail. Does that sound fair to you?
cash bail system pretrial detention system means that wealthier defendants get released while poor defendants must stay in jail. Staying in jail means not being able to work. That, and fines and fees, supposedly intended to discourage wrongdoing, force the poor into plea bargains — with greater rates of imprisonment — or to rot in jail while pending trial. FYI, “pre-trail detention” on average last 135 days.
But if you can secure bail, where’s the deterrence? Oh, riiiiiight. The amount of justice you get is how much you can pay for. Sounds good, eh? That’s even before you try to get a lawyer….
For the full skinny, with good graphics see here.
Mother Jones continues:
Now, state judges will determine whether or not someone can be released prior to their court date based on the severity of their crime or their risk of fleeing prosecution.
But, but, but, how can we possibly determine an accused’s flight risk?
The law was reportedly a collaborative effort between lawmakers, criminal justice reform organizers, and victims’ rights advocates to mitigate racial discrimination.
Oh, right. So instead of just having someone pony up some cash, experts with knowledge about how things work worked long and hard with people interested equity and fairness to come up with a practicable solution to the important problem of criminal justice. Y’know, they applied reason and empathy. That old saw.
So, who on earth would oppose such an outrageous application of the fundamental values under-pining our constitutional system of government? Again, Mother Jones knows:
Some of the loudest critics of the Pretrial Fairness Act are state attorneys and law enforcement, who have claimed that eliminating bail would increase the state’s crime rates. Earlier this year, prosecutors and sheriffs across 64 counties filed lawsuits claiming the bill was unconstitutional.
And these critics will use demagoguery to fight back. Willie Horton will seem quaint by comparison.
So, prepare yourselves for the fight of the decade. ‘Cause this is a BFD and neither side can afford to lose this one. The school-to-prison pipeline is an essential means by which the racism and classism (and militarism) in our country operates and perpetuates itself.