The news that the cash bail system for the state of Illinois will go away in 102 days is not sitting well with state prosecutors and law enforcement officials who are calling for the new law’s repeal.
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, also called the SAFE-T Act, would end cash bail. The bail system will be replaced by a system that considers the offense severity, the risk of not appearing in court, and the potential threat to the community if a person is released, The Jacksonville Journal-Courier reported.
When the law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023, criminals charged with crimes that include second-degree murder, aggravated battery, and arson without bail, as well as drug-induced homicide, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, intimidation, aggravated DUI, aggravated fleeing and eluding, drug offenses and threatening a public official, could be released without bail if a judge determines they are not a threat to an individual or the community.
Supporters of the measure say it’s a step in making the justice system equal and fair, especially for minority communities.
But a rising chorus of law enforcement officials and prosecutors across The Prairie State are sounding the alarm.
Now 100 out of 102 Illinois state attorneys say they are opposed to the new law, according to Just The News.
The Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley warns in an op-ed that the SAFE-T Act means, “On Jan. 1, 2023, it is estimated that more than half of the inmates in the Winnebago County Jail will walk out the door. Approximately 400 criminal defendants will be released back into our community…”
And Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau (R) told Just the News that cashless bail isn’t the only problem with the new law.
“It’s the fact that trespassers cannot be removed from your property by police,” Pekau said. “They can’t lay a hand on someone. So how are you going to get someone who’s living in your shed or in your pool or took camp in your business to actually leave? And it’s going to lead to people taking the law into their own hands, which I don’t think any of us thinks is a really good idea.”
Pekau also explained how the SAFE-T Act will be used against police officers when they go and testify by accepting anonymous complaints against them.
“This bill not only enabled criminals, it really targeted police officers to try and drive them out of the profession,” he told Just The News. “And frankly, I don’t know how we’re going to get good police officers to stay or get people who will be good police officers in the future to join with a law like this in place.”
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe filed a lawsuit last week in circuit court, saying the law violates the state constitution in a number of ways, including the single-subject requirement, separation of powers, the three-readings requirement, and others, according to WMAQ-TV.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
“This lawsuit should not be necessary,” Rowe said in a statement. “I surely believe that freedom should not hinge upon one’s ability to pay a bond and that the criminal justice system is in dire need of reform, including bail and beyond. However, regardless of whether you agree with or reject the many reforms of the Safe-T Act, or even how you may interpret them, one thing is for certain: you cannot amend the Illinois Constitution without a referendum or Constitutional Convention (Illinois Constitution, Article XIV).”
The governor’s office responded in a statement that the lawsuit was a “weak attempt to protect the status quo that lets murders and abusers pay their way out of jail.”
“The SAFE-T Act not only prevents that from happening but also provides law enforcement officers the tools they need to fight crime, like body cameras, additional training, and access to mental healthcare,” the statement read. “Victims’ rights organizations support the law and the state will defend creating a more equitable criminal justice system in court.”
Gov. Pritzker has frequently defended the law. At a press conference last week, he said, “The Safe-T Act is designed to keep murderers and domestic abusers, violent criminals in jail.”
And in a recent Instagram post, he argued the law has been vilified on social media and in the press, especially the list of “non-detainable” offenses. “HB 3653 does not mandate release, and is supported by victims’ rights advocates,” the governor said. “It ensures that the courts retain the ability to hold defendants who are safety or flight risks.”
Olayemi Olurin, a public defender for the Legal Aid Society in New York, told WMAQ the idea making the rounds on social media that the new law was a “purge law” was incorrect.
“The purge is a time where they say this is a free for all. All crime is legal for the next 24 hours. That’s the concept of the purge, right?” she told the station. “That is not the case here in any way, shape or form what this law actually does. This is just redressing bail. That’s all this is is addressing bail.”
But Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said in a YouTube video it will be the “end of days” once the law kicks in. He says the hands of police, prosecutors, and judges will be tied.
The bill “will destroy the city and the state of Illinois,” he said. “I don’t even understand (how) the people who support it can’t realize that.”
Under the law, the state will allow a judge to determine whether an individual poses a risk to another individual or the community at large, according to WMAQ. The judge can decide to hold the individual in jail or release them on their own recognizance.
The text of the law reads, “Detention only shall be imposed when it is determined that the defendant poses a specific, real and present threat to a person, or has a high likelihood of willful flight.”
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