Updated at 9:35 p.m. ET
Illinois governor JB Pritzker on Monday signed a bill making Illinois the first state in the country to abolish bail payments for the release of people who have been arrested and awaiting a hearing on their case.
The practice has long been controversial with advocates of criminal justice reform calling bail a “poor people’s tax,” the one disproportionately negative impact to people with color. It leaves those who can’t get in jail with the money for weeks or more, or even accept plea agreements to get out.
The Illinois Pre-Trial Fairness Act is part of Illinois House Bill 3653, a comprehensive package of criminal penalties. The provisions include that police officers must be licensed by the state and must wear body cameras by 2025, that training opportunities for officers must be expanded, that police officers who commit misconduct must be more easily de-certified, and that a program of compensation for victims must be improved. by making more resources readily available to survivors.
The bill was sponsored by a caucus of Black Illinois lawmakers, which, according to Illinois State Rep. Justin Slaughter, was boosted by the death of George Floyd and others along with summer protests and demonstrations over policing, and racial and social justice.
Upon signing the bill, Slaughter said it signaled action that went from “protest to progress,” and Pritzker said, “This legislation is an essential step in reducing the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation, and us brings closer real security, real fairness and real justice. ”
A statement from the Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition, a collection of police unions and organizations representing police officers and county sheriffs, said the law will put the public and law enforcement at risk. “It is an obvious move to punish an entire honorable profession that hurts law-abiding citizens the most,” the statement said. “We hope police officers don’t leave their jobs in droves and handcuff those who remain so they can’t stop crimes against people and property.”
The executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police published a statement call the measure “anti-police”. Ed Wojcicki says it “attacks officers unfairly and tries to punish them, not just hold them accountable”.
Bail abolitionists say these are fear tactics, and they point to studies showing that crime caused by the near-bail abolition in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., is increasing little or no
Other efforts have been made to clear the cash deposit. However, bail reforms in New York and Alaska were reversed or changed, and voters in California chose to keep the cash bail intact. Illinois is the only state that is now deleting it entirely.
Many parts of Illinois House Bill 3653 will go into effect July 1, but it will be two years before the no-cash deposit policy is introduced in January 2023. According to the Illinois Attorney General, that’s more than enough time to solve all of the challenges associated with such a monumental change.