Did Illinois Get Bail Reform Right? Criminal Justice Advocates are Optimistic

Under the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act — which would not be implemented until January 2023, after a two-year rollout plan — charged individuals will either be held or not held, eliminating any element of money. Along with the end of cash bond, there will be a new, strictly defined process to guide the decision-making for detention.

The act, more than 300 pages long, is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation that not only abolishes the cash bond system but also aims to end mass pretrial incarceration, said Sharone Mitchell, director of the Illinois Justice Project, a member organization of the Coalition to End Money Bond that was heavily involved in drafting the legislation.

But bail reform has not been an easy feat to implement in other states that tried to enact similar legislation. Without clear and narrow guidelines for when bail could be used, judges in some states were preventively detaining defendants in jail without any option of pretrial release. In other jurisdictions, courts have been called out for utilizing risk assessment tools that have been criticized for being flawed and racially biased.

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