Illinois ending cash bail system

VIENNA, Ill. (KFVS/Gray News) – Illinois is getting ready for some changes in 2023 that include eliminating its cash bail system.

However, select lawmakers and law enforcement officials say it could make communities more dangerous.

“I believe the elimination of cash bail, particularly as it’s written in the SAFE-T Act, will reduce public safety and lead to more crime in Illinois,” said Patrick Windhorst, former state attorney and current state representative.

Windhorst said he voted against the bill when it came about and was one of the leading voices against it.

KFVS reports the Illinois SAFE-T Act is legislation aimed at overhauling the state’s criminal justice system.

“I know after talking with prosecutors and law enforcement officers, they’re really concerned that the public is going to point the finger at them and say, ‘Why aren’t you doing more about these offenses?’ And with this major change in the law, a lot of their ability to do their jobs has been restrained,” Windhorst said

The Johnson County sheriff agreed with Windhorst.

“Anyone sitting in jail right now with all these pending charges, they’re going to be let out,” Johnson County Sheriff Peter Sopczak said. “The gates are open and they’re going to be let out onto the streets.”

The bill reportedly passed with the support of upstate lawmakers. Proponents of the law said it’s wrong to keep people locked up simply because they can’t afford bail.

According to Sheriff Sopczak, fewer suspects will end up going to jail. Only suspects involved in specific deadly incidents could be held.

“We’re going to end up calling someone saying, ‘Can we arrest them?’ Just because of liability, if you take someone into custody and it doesn’t meet all the criteria, then you can get in trouble,” said Sopczak.

Sopczak also said he isn’t clear how the law will be implemented.

Windhorst listed some of the offenses that won’t involve detention before going to trial.

“Violent crimes, burglary, robbery, arson, kidnapping, almost all drug offenses, DUI offenses, even DUI offenses involving a fatality, do not qualify for detention under the Illinois Safety Act,” Windhorst said. “That’s going to mean a lot of individuals are committing crimes and being released immediately, if not within a couple of days.”

Illinois is the first state in the country to abolish cash bail.