SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — With time ticking down before Illinois ends cash bail, sides have drawn lines in the sands on what changes they would agree to should the legislature propose an amendment.
The law, part of the SAFE-T Act, was a controversial issue during the election, as many Republicans used the new law to talk about crime in state. It also faces a lawsuit in Kankakee County from dozens of state’s attorneys in the state.
The legislature only has three days of veto session before the law goes into effect to get a new law.
Many supporters want to keep the law nearly identical. A group of supporters, including 17 state senators and representatives, issued a list of principles Friday they would want in a potential bill amending the law. These include “Pretrial detention and other restrictions on liberty should be used only as a last resort” and “conditions of pretrial release should not prevent an accused person from performing basic personal responsibilities”.
This is after hundreds of supporters of the Pre-Trial Fairness Act gathered in the Capitol Wednesday to ask lawmakers to keep the law as it is.
“The spirit of the law is to end money bond and to also reduce the harm caused by pre-trial incarceration,” Brianna Payton, a policy analyst for the Chicago Community Bail Fund, said. “And in order to do that, you also need to reduce pre-trial incarceration.”
Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) filed a bill amending the law in September on behalf of the State’s Attorney Association. He has repeatedly called his bill ‘a starting point’, but thinks clarifying the language of the law is important.
“We want to make sure that when the bill goes into effect in January, that it is able to be implemented in the way it’s intended,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s bill would give judges more leniency on if accused individuals are issued detention for each specific cases.
“Basically, if your offense could be given probation at the end, then you must not be that dangerous and in a sense, and so therefore a judge doesn’t get a chance to do a hearing. I don’t think that’s a good idea, I would prefer no two cases are the same. And just because someone’s charged with the same offense, even in the same arraignment date, two different domestic batteries might be drastically different.”
But advocates say Bennett’s bill would create a worse situation than the current one.
“It creates a presumption of detention in some cases, which is antithetical to people’s constitutional rights to a presumption that believes release when they are legally innocent and awaiting trial,” Payton said. “And there has to be actual evidence to determine whether someone’s pre-trial freedom should be taken.”
Bennett still defends his bill.
“I know what the original spirit of that bill was,” he said. “It was to take cash out of the system. And nowhere in my bill does it suggest we should put cash back in.”
The section of the SAFE-T Act that ends pre-trial detention goes into effect Jan. 1st.