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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Illinois sheriffs brace for fallout of ‘America’s most dangerous law’ after state supreme court ends cash bail

Sheriffs in southern Illinois say they are bracing for more crime and more victims that result from the end of cash bail across the state.

“Folks who live here are extremely concerned,” Franklin County Sheriff Kyle Bacon told Fox News. “It’s an experiment on the backs of victims of crime. I have serious concerns and so do the people that live here.”

On Tuesday, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of eliminating the state’s cash bail system. The ruling takes effect Sept. 18, making Illinois the first state to fully abolish cash bail.

Under the new law, judges across Illinois will not require those charged with a crime to post bail in order to be released from jail while they await trial, unless the judge determines them a threat to the public or a flight risk.

“That’s going to increase crime victim frustration … and we share that frustration with them,” he said.

The provision, which is part of the 2021 criminal justice reform bill, the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (or SAFE-T) Act, was previously set to go into effect on Jan. 1, but it was placed on hold after Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul appealed a ruling by a circuit judge that the pre-trial release and bail reforms in the SAFE-T act were unconstitutional.

“We were preparing for this, but then we just kind of hit the pause button,” Bacon told Fox News. “And now the scramble is back on for law enforcement, prosecutors.” 

Bacon said the full effects of the change won’t be known until the law takes effect.

“The flaws of it are going to be revealed even more and trying to fix that issue is going to be a nonstop process,” Bacon said. 

Both Franklin County and Jefferson County are located in southern Illinois and experience high numbers of drug-related trespassing and burglaries, the sheriffs said.

Bullard said reforms such as these will have a more noticeable impact in the southern part of the state.

“A lot of things can be lost in the shuffle of a large metropolitan area, like Chicago,” he said. “Crime and especially violent crime, in a rural county, a lot of people hear about it, a lot of people are concerned about it and [that] it does not get lost in the shuffle,” he said.

Bail reform advocates argue that the current cash bail system bases the freedom of people awaiting trial largely on their ability to pay money and have said it disproportionately affects communities of color.

Both Bullard and Bacon said their officers will continue to serve and protect their citizens to the best of their ability within the limits of the law, but the outlook of how this change will affect policing remains unclear.

“We have 100 people sitting in jail or requiring cash bond. What happens with that? We have literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of arrest warrants that are assigned a cash bond. What happens with that?” Bacon said. “All of these questions exist and, quite honestly, I sit here and have no idea what the answers are.”

Bullard said it can “discourage both the police, those in the criminal justice system and the citizens” when more emphasis is put on the rights of defendants over the protection of the public, but “I would tell people to not be discouraged, we’re going to continue to push forward.”

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