MADISON COUNTY, Ill. – Illinois lawmakers have approved a criminal justice reform bill that is more than 700 pages long. The legislation would do away with cash bail.
Supporters of the change say the current bail system unfairly affects poor individuals who are unable to post bail, whether they are innocent or not.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine is joining the Madison County sheriff and every police chief in the county opposing the bill. They feel it was hastily approved and are worried about the consequences.
“I would challenge anyone to tell me exactly what’s in the bill,” Haine said.
He said the provision eliminating cash bail requires authorities to show someone poses a threat to a specific person before bail can be imposed. Haine believes a suspected murderer could be released without bail because of the way the bill is worded.
“You’re going to see a lot of criminals let loose on the streets,” said Ed Wojcicki, executive director for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
The bill that would also make body cameras a requirement for police departments. Many police departments support the use of body cameras but worry how the mandate would be funded.
“There’s no guarantee that the funding is going to be there but no doubt the mandates will remain,” said Wojcicki.
Haine and other law enforcement groups call on Governor J.B. Pritzker to either veto the bill or work with them to find areas of agreement.
“We all want equal justice and equal application of the law,” said Haine. “There’s enumerable ways that we can improve and get better.”
Pritzker released the following statement Wednesday night:
I have long held that an essential mark of good governance is a willingness to change the laws that have failed the people of Illinois. This criminal justice package carries with it the opportunity to shape our state into a lesson in true justice for the nation by abolishing cash bail, modernizing sentencing laws, instituting a certification and decertification system for police officers statewide, requiring body cameras, reforming crowd control response, and amplifying law enforcement training standards. I was proud to make ending cash bail and modernizing sentencing laws a legislative priority of my administration, and I have long pledged my support to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in their efforts to pass not just criminal justice reform and police accountability measures, but also to truly root out the systemic racism that pulses through all our nation’s institutions by pursuing greater equity in healthcare, higher goals in education, and deeper investments in economic opportunity for communities that have for too long been left out and left behind.
In addition to recognizing the countless activists and advocates who have dedicated years – if not lifetimes – to pushing for change in a nation that locks people up at the highest rate in the world, I want to specifically offer my gratitude to Committee Chairs Representative Justin Slaughter and Senator Elgie Sims, Senator Robert Peters, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, the ACLU of Illinois, the Coalition to End Money Bond, the Illinois Justice Project, the People’s Lobby, and all who have committed themselves to building a fairer and more equitable Illinois.Gov. J.B. Pritzker