Bill aims to help people who can’t afford bail

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ILLINOIS — ” I sat in county jail for two years. My family didn’t have $500 to pay the percentage,” says Charles Hardwick, of the Howard Area Community Center Re-entry Services.

Individuals who get caught up in the criminal justice system say an unaffordable bail can feel like a guilty sentence.

“I had to sit there until they decided I wasn’t guilty so I think this is a wonderful thing,” says Hardwick. 

Illinois has not updated credit for incarceration laws since the 1960’s. Right now, any person who can’t afford bail has to stay in jail until trial. With an average bail set at $10,000, inmates have to wait 200 days to get out of jail. If Senator Michael Hastings (D) gets his way, he’d cut that down to under 5 weeks.

“You can’t really work. It also lowers the burden on a criminal when they get out because they’re going to have a rough times anyway,” says Hastings. 

Senator Hastings says this bill will help people get back on their feet and back to work.

“I’ve seen individuals that are the breadwinner in the home that went to jail and the families are homeless now and they’re sitting in someone’s jail because they can’t afford it.”

Those who have been previously incarcerated say the current system does not take into account the lives of everyone affected. They hope this bill will help keep more families together.

“People get in trouble sometimes. They need a hand up to get back on their feet so they can become a productive member of society and I hope this does that.” 

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