Law enforcement officials in the southern region of Illinois are expressing their apprehension over an expected rise in criminal activity and victimization following the discontinuation of the cash bail system statewide.
The local populace is extremely perturbed by this development, shared Franklin County Sheriff Kyle Bacon in a conversation with Fox News. He remarked that this is an experiment being conducted at the cost of crime victims, and his apprehensions are echoed by local residents.
This week, the Supreme Court of Illinois delivered a verdict in favor of abolishing the state’s cash bail system. The ruling will become effective from September 18, making Illinois the pioneer state to wholly eliminate cash bail.
With this new legislation in place, Illinois judges will no longer mandate individuals charged with a crime to pay bail for pre-trial release from custody, unless it is determined that they pose a risk to public safety or might abscond.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard commented that the primary impact of these changes will be borne by law enforcement and attorneys. He elaborated on the new process where once the arrested individuals are incarcerated, it’s up to the state’s attorney to argue for their remand for trial. However, the judge is then compelled by the guidelines of the SAFE-T Act to release them. This situation will likely exacerbate the dissatisfaction felt by crime victims, a sentiment that law enforcement shares.
The amendment is a component of the 2021 criminal justice reform bill, also known as the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today (or SAFE-T) Act. This was originally slated to be operational from January 1. However, its implementation was paused following an appeal from Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul against a circuit judge’s ruling that the pre-trial release and bail reforms proposed by the SAFE-T Act were unconstitutional.
Sheriff Bacon acknowledged the uncertainty caused by the delay and the resultant scramble among law enforcement and prosecutors. He stated that the real impact of this change would only be measurable once the law is in action.
Both Franklin County and Jefferson County, located in southern Illinois, face a high incidence of drug-related trespassing and burglaries, according to the Sheriffs. They are committed to serving crime victims to the best of their capacity, but express that the new law does not bode well for the rural communities they serve.
Bullard emphasized that such reforms have a more pronounced impact in southern Illinois compared to larger metropolitan areas like Chicago, where crime may not receive the same level of attention.
Advocates for bail reform argue that the existing cash bail system disproportionately affects communities of color, as it bases pre-trial freedom largely on one’s financial capabilities.
However, Bullard holds the opinion that the legislators and judges who greenlit the reform should bear the responsibility for any new victims resulting from it. Both Bullard and Bacon reaffirm their commitment to continuing law enforcement within the new legal boundaries, even though the implications of these changes on policing are still unclear.
Unanswered questions about the status of current detainees and outstanding arrest warrants with assigned cash bonds are among their concerns. Bullard encourages perseverance despite the potential challenges of prioritizing defendants’ rights over public protection.