Illinois has made history by becoming the first state to fully abolish the cash bail system. The provision of the SAFE-T Act, which eliminates cash bail, went into effect on Monday, revolutionizing the bail process statewide. Cash bail is the money defendants are required to pay as a deposit for their release from jail before their trial. Critics argue that cash bail disproportionately affects low-income individuals who cannot afford to pay for their release, creating a two-tiered justice system. According to Human Impact Partners, a significant number of people incarcerated pre-trial are in jail solely because they cannot afford bail.
The abolition of cash bail in Illinois means that defendants will no longer have to pay for their release, and those currently held on cash bail can request their release. However, it is important to note that judges still retain discretion to detain defendants if they believe they pose a flight risk or a threat to public safety. Critics argue that this discretion can be problematic, as race is often used as a proxy for determining “dangerousness.”
The changes in Illinois’ bail system will be closely monitored by both advocates and critics of reform.