Cash bail system needs urgent reform

Someone who the police have arrested can expect to face a judge for arraignment. The judge will formally read the charges and set bail. If the defendant can come up with the bail money, the court will release him or her from jail until the time of trial arrives. If the person does not have the money or resources to make bail, he or she will likely remain in jail for weeks or longer until the trial.

In a system that seeks justice, this may seem grossly unfair to you. Fortunately, Illinois is making moves toward reforming the cash bail system that is now in place. Other states have eliminated their cash bail systems, and so far, these efforts have shown success. You may be among the many who hope state lawmakers will manage to find a workable system in Illinois, despite the protests of special interest groups.

Why cash bail is unfair

You may not disagree that the criminal justice system works when it protects citizens and communities from those who are a threat to their safety. However, not every accused offender who remains behind bars is a danger to the community. Someone facing misdemeanor drug charges may have to stay in jail while more dangerous offenders charged with violent crimes can go free because they have the financial resources. Other states have learned that alternatives to bail or jail, such as curfews, drug testing and electronic monitoring, have many benefits, including:

  • A nearly 30% drop in pretrial incarceration
  • Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars saved by releasing non-violent offenders whose low risk makes incarceration unnecessary
  • No measurable increase in recidivism or repeat court appearances from those given pretrial release without paying bail
  • A significant drop in violent crime

On the other hand, if you remain in jail because you cannot afford bail, you may be dealing with loss of contact with your family, including your children, loss of your job and exposure to dangers while behind bars. This may be especially painful if a court eventually decides you are not guilty of the charges you face.

While Illinois debates the benefits of eliminating the cash bail system, you may have to fight for your rights without the benefits of reforms. However, you do not have to fight alone. You can reach out to a skilled and experienced attorney who knows the system and will stand up for the rights of the accused.

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