One major issue related to criminal justice reform is the issue of the money bond. Like in other states across the US, Illinois has a system where, upon arrest for a crime, the accused often has the ability to pay “bail” in order to stay out of jail until trial.
Essentially, it allows richer accused persons to walk free until trial, while poorer ones may be stuck in jail until their trial date. According to the ACLU of Illinois, reforming the money bond process is a key element in criminal justice reform.
How big is the problem in Illinois?
In Cook County alone, nearly two-thirds of individuals detained before a criminal conviction would not be in jail if there were no money bond system. This also increases the amount of racial disparity in the system, particularly because the courts are more likely to convict those who cannot pay bond. They are also more likely to have longer sentences as compared to those who have the ability to pay bond.
What is the ACLU’s stance?
The Illinois ACLU is a member of the Coalition to End Money Bond. They seek to end money bond, not only for the reasons stated above but because the system causes many personal problems. Even in the event that the courts do not convict a person detained before conviction, this can ruin a person’s life. For instance, detained persons may lose their jobs, custody of their children or their housing. After one month in prison, detained persons lose access to Medicaid.
Reforming the money bond system is a major issue in Illinois and across the United States. Until the US reforms the money bond system, the system treats many as guilty until proven innocent.