SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The amendment to the SAFE-T Act passed Thursday was called a compromise on all sides. It wasn’t just lawmakers who negotiated those changes – state’s attorneys, law enforcement agencies and advocates who supported the elimination of cash bail all had a say in the modifications made to the controversial law.

“We believe that that was vital to coming up with a bill that both promotes public safety as well as the concerns about cash bail and the issues surrounding that system that we’re moving away from,” Julia Rietz, the Champaign County State’s Attorney, said.

State’s attorneys and law enforcement were opposed to the original law while coalitions to end cash bail supported it. In the end, both groups said they are neutral to the new proposal and that they can live with the changes made to the SAFE-T Act.

“You never get what you want completely in a negotiation,” Kenny Winslow, the Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said. “Nobody does, we understand that. We think it’s a good start. It’s a step in the right direction.”

The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice (INPJ) praised the passage of the amendment.

“On January 1, 2023, Illinois will become the first state in the nation to completely eliminate the jailing of people who are awaiting trial simply because they’re poor—a practice that has devastated Black, Brown, and poor communities across our state for decades,” the group said in a statement.

One of the new changes passed expands the detention net, or offenses that would keep someone detained before trial under the dangerousness standard in the law. That includes second degree murder, kidnapping and residential burglary.

James Kilgore, the director of advocacy and outreach at FirstFollowers Re-entry Program in Champaign, which supports eliminating cash bail, had concerns about this increase, but called the modifications to the SAFE-T Act “sensible.”  

“I think we have avoided the worst case scenario, which would be that we either just completely eliminate those restrictions, or that we have a long, long, long list of items under which people can be detained,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore added that the proposal still stays true to the original spirit of the measure.

“The advocates that are there are still there backing the bill and feeling positive that we’ve been able to be a part of a change that really puts Illinois at the cutting edge of criminal legal system reform nationwide,” Kilgore said.

Rietz, who is also the president of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association, said the modifications to the amendment were a major improvement from the original proposal and that it addressed many of her concerns including increasing the detention net, clarifying that judges can issue warrants to people who have missed their court date and changing the definition of willful flight to make it easier for prosecutors to argue someone is a flight risk.

But Rietz said she wanted to see more clarity with how the amendment addressed detainable offenses related to burglary. The modified legislation lists burglary when force is used and residential burglary as detainable offenses.

“Under the amendment that’s being discussed today [it’s] not a detainable offense in and of itself unless we can show willful flight,” Rietz said. “We’re going to keep an eye on that, again, because of our concern about those more violent and significant types of burglaries being ones that we believe should be detainable.”

Along with eliminating cash bail, the SAFE-T Act also requires all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras by 2025. 

Winslow said he wanted to see lawmakers clarify which officers have to wear body cameras. He said if every officer has to wear one, it will be a major burden on tax payers.

“We didn’t think that our training officers, our chiefs, our administrative officers, or even some of our detectives, and other positions that are on our larger departments that would have to wear a body-worn camera,” Winslow said.

The modifications to the act also change the guidelines for when officers can use force and include training on de-escalation techniques. But Winslow said those changes make it more challenging for officers to use less lethal options. 

“We have the ability to use less lethal tools that now have been rendered ineffective in some situations where we can’t utilize them to the back, which is where they’re designed to be and the back in the major muscle areas,” Winslow said.

Winslow said he wants lawmakers to address this in the next legislative session.