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Illinois has officially ended the use of cash bail for pretrial release following a state Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of this practice.

The enactment of the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act solidifies Illinois’s position as the first US state to eliminate monetary cash bail. While certain defendants charged with specific felonies and violent misdemeanors can still be detained before trial, the state must demonstrate the defendant’s potential threat to public safety or risk of fleeing.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has pushed for the abolition of cash bail, previously describing it as a “penalty on poverty” and claiming it inherently favored the affluent. In their statement after the high court’s decision, the ACLU emphasized, “Abolishing cash bail improves public safety by allowing people to return to their communities and families… When people can go home, take care of their families, and keep up with school or work, that stability makes all our communities safer and stronger.”

However, there are concerns among some that this change might impede law enforcement’s efforts in safeguarding communities by detaining suspected criminals. Addressing the change, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle assured the community’s readiness to embrace the new guidelines, saying, “As a result of nearly two years of thoughtful and collaborative preparation, Cook County is ready to implement the new procedures required by the Pretrial Fairness Act.”

As the new system takes effect, defendants currently incarcerated due to a cash bail order are set to receive release hearings starting Monday.


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