ILLINOIS, USA — It’s a historic bill that gives some hope. HB 3653 would make Illinois the first state in the country to completely abolish cash bail.
“We are really excited about the passage of this bill because this is what we’ve organized for the past few years,” said Aswad Thomas, the managing director of the Alliance for Safety and Justice.
The bill will overhaul the state’s pretrial justice system by no longer holding accused people solely based on their ability to pay bail.
“There's a difference between cash bail and cash-only bail. Illinois has cash-only bail," said Juajuan Harris, the owner of Mr. Harris Bail Bonds.
His business is in the city of St. Louis, but he often gets inquiries from Illinois.
“I help people all throughout the country, I'm what's called a commercial bondsman,” said Harris.
Harris believes ending cash bail will create a scenario favorable for re-offenders.
“When you do something like that, there has to be some repercussions. You got to pay some money, you got to spend some time, there has to be something," Harris said. "It can't just be a slap on the wrist, because you can go out and you’ll do the same thing.”
Supporters say otherwise. They say poor people are often unfairly jailed because they don’t have money to post bail.
They also say judges would still have the discretion to deny release to those who pose a threat to public safety.
“It's also a huge step in the right direction to address disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Thomas.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker agrees- writing in a statement
“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," Pritzker said. "This criminal justice package carries with it the opportunity to shape our state into a lesson in true justice for the nation.”
Pritzker has not yet signed the bill. There is a two-year implementation period so changes wouldn't take effect until January 2023.