Court marks first year of bail order with second data release

Released On 09/18/2018

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans’ creation of a Pretrial Division and his entering of General Order 18.8A on bail and pretrial release in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The Circuit Court has processed and validated nine months of administrative data to present the following facts:

  • The jail population was 6,314 inmates on September 17, 2018. That is a 1,176-inmate reduction – or 15 percent – from 7,490 on September 17, 2017, the day before Chief Judge Evans’ order took effect. The current population is a more significant drop from just five years ago, when the population hovered around 10,000 inmates.
  • Nearly nine of 10 felony defendants who appeared in bond court and were released into the community between October 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 while their case was pending were not arrested on new charges (88.6 percent) and had attended scheduled court dates as required (86.9 percent).
  • From October 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, 78 percent of felony defendants (13,985 of 17,991) have been released while their case was pending. Before the order took effect, the pretrial release rate of felony defendants was 59 percent.
  • Of the pretrial inmates in jail on June 30, 2018, 71.7 percent had a current violent, weapons or person-related charge.
  • Orders denying bail, which stipulate that defendants cannot be released under any conditions, have increased to 7.4 percent of felony cases (1,323 defendants from October 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018) from 1.2 percent of felony cases prior to the order. 

“This is what evolution looks like in the administration of justice,” Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said. “We are striking a balance between protecting the public and protecting the rights of the accused, who are presumed innocent.”

It takes about six weeks after the end of a quarter to compile and prepare pretrial data for the dashboards that the court publishes on its website. The quarterly dashboards are updated through June 2018 and are currently available here:

The court began publishing the quarterly dashboards in May 2018, representing the first comprehensive release of performance measures related to bail reform. The measures evaluate the following areas since the implementation of General Order 18.8A: Cook County Jail population trends; initial bond orders set using a Public Safety Assessment (PSA) for felony defendants; D-bond dollar amount needed to secure release from custody; rate of pretrial release by initial bond order; court appearance rate; community safety rate; and assessment of risk for new violent criminal activity.

All judges in the year-old Pretrial Division are trained to use the Arnold Foundation’s PSA tool. The Circuit Court of Cook County was the first state court system in Illinois to implement the PSA, provided by the Arnold Foundation at no expense to the court. The PSA provides the judge with an assessment of whether, if released from jail, a defendant is likely to commit another crime, commit a violent crime or fail to appear for future court dates.

The court has embraced this scientific approach on pretrial risk assessments. The court has embraced the voluntary release of its pretrial data. The court has embraced a court-reminder system that sends a series of automated text or voice messages to defendants in criminal cases to remind them of upcoming court dates.

And the court has embraced access to justice through an order Chief Judge Evans entered in March 2017 that ensures that arrestees have the chance to receive free legal assistance from a public defender or a volunteer attorney while they are in police custody and have not yet been taken to bond court.


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