SANGAMON COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) – Counties across Illinois have spent the past week navigating the new no-cash bail system. And in some areas, they haven’t seen any major changes.
“We’ve had a slight headcount drop in our jail,” said Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell. “We’re down about 295 this morning, which is down about 10 from our average over the last month or so. That’s kind of what we expected.”
Campbell said they’ve had about 50 people behind bars ask for their cases to be considered under the new system. Of those 50, nine have had hearings but none of them have been released.
“Our jail is consistently full of pretty much Class X felons, so very few, if any, will be let go,” Campbell said. “There are some that are obviously pretrial that may not be a violent felony of some sort that could be released, but again, right now, none of those have been released that have petitioned.”
Still, Campbell is concerned that those who do end up being released pretrial won’t return for their court date.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and we’ve got 5,000 outstanding warrants in our system and that’s people that mostly don’t come back to court or don’t pay their fine, disappear, move away,” Campbell said.
Champaign County’s chief public defender Elisabeth Pollock said most of the people do return to court if they are released.
“There’s always something that happens usually that causes them to not appear and then we can then later quash those warrants if the excuse is valid,” Pollock said. “We can then ask the court to please undo that failure to appear warrant because of whatever happened that caused them to miss.”
Overall, Pollock said the past week under the new system has gone smoothly, but their office is still adjusting.
“The days are longer for the attorney who’s covering arraignment court,” Pollock said. “You used to be able to squeeze in a couple of hearings in the morning or maybe a couple of hearings later in the afternoon, depending on when you got out. Now there is no extra time on arraignment court days.”
While some smaller counties have had concerns about staffing shortages and keeping up with the hearings under the new system, Pollock said this hasn’t been a challenge for Champaign County.