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Chief Judge Evans expresses support of bill eliminating cash bail

Released On 01/13/2021

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans expressed approval and support today for a newly-passed criminal justice bill that will eliminate cash bail, because it is consistent with the U.S. Constitution’s presumption of innocence before trial.  

“We have been supporting the end of money bail for a long time,” Judge Evans said. “Money was never a good gauge as to who should be released on pretrial. The law is that there is a presumption of innocence when someone is charged.” 

If the bill is signed by Gov. J. B. Pritzker, the elimination of cash bail under most circumstances will take effect in January of 2023. 

Judge Evans ordered bail reform in the Cook County Circuit Court in 2017. An independent Loyola University study last year found that the order saved Cook County residents from having to post more than $31 million in bail in just one six-month period and kept hundreds out of jail, while not contributing to an increase in crime. 

The study largely confirmed findings of a 2019 operational report on felony bail reform conducted by the Office of the Chief Judge. 

Both imprisonment before trial and steep bond amounts can be harmful to defendants and to their families, leading to job losses and other personal and financial difficulties, which can in turn lead to more trouble with the law, Judge Evans noted. 

Judge Evans noted that during the pretrial period, defendants still have to agree to avoid criminal activity and return to court when required. For those persons who pose a clear and present danger to society, judges can order that they be held in jail until trial, Judge Evans said. 

“If they pose no danger to the public, persons should not be punished before being convicted of a crime,” Evans said. “Cash bail provides freedom to those who have the resources to pay it, which is indicative neither of innocence nor of whether a person poses a threat.” 

Currently, under bail reform in Cook County, most defendants who pose no danger to the public are released from custody pending trial because monetary bail is a last resort, and any bail amounts are required to be set at an amount they can afford. 

When setting bond, judges consider multiple factors, including the facts of the case, requirements of Illinois statute, input from the defense and prosecution, and the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) tool. The PSA tool helps judges determine danger to the public, calculating the risks of failure to appear, new criminal activity and new violent criminal activity. 

The bill as passed by the legislature contains certain exceptions for cases involving “the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, the Driver License Compact, or the Nonresident Violator Compact which are compacts that have been entered into between this State and its sister states.”  

Judge Evans said he looks forward to seeing Cook County’s success in bail reform expanded and replicated throughout the state of Illinois, and eventually the nation. 

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