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Cash bail ends Monday in Illinois. Here's what that means

Illinois' courtrooms will look a lot different starting Monday.

ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. — The option for cash bail ended in Illinois on Monday as the SAFE-T Act takes full effect.

Things are going to look a lot different in courtrooms, especially behind the scenes, as judges and those facing charges will now have a pretrial detention hearing instead of a bond hearing.

“The eliminating of cash bail is not relative to safety in my mind. If you have money, you can bail yourself out. It doesn't matter the crime that you have committed,” Metro East Organizing Coalition Executive Director Larita Rice-Barnes said.

Now that those days are gone in Illinois, Rice-Barnes said the end of cash bail is the beginning of the road to racial and economic dignity in the Illinois justice system.

“Cash bail has targeted marginalized people. You have 36% of black people, black men, particularly, that receive higher bail than white men, 19% of Latino males that receive higher bail as well,” Rice-Barnes said.

What’s changing?

Starting on Monday, when someone in Illinois is arrested and facing charges, a judge will hold a pretrial detention hearing to take a look at the case, examining the person’s history, criminal record if any, the likelihood they will show up to court and if there is any risk to the public.

If the person is facing serious charges connected to murder, sexual assault, violent robberies or burglaries, they can be denied pre-trial release.

But if the person is facing charges for a non-violent offense they could be released and sent home or they could be released and put on some form of home detention system ahead of their trial.

“The people that will be released under this act are charged with crimes that are nonviolent, that essentially don't really have a victim. Typical examples would be drug possession and also retail theft,” St. Clair County Chief Public Defender Cathy MacElroy said.

What about the people currently sitting in jail and have a cash bail they couldn’t pay?

“All of them will have a right to a pretrial hearing in the next 90 days. We've had to adjust the schedules of the judges so that the state's attorneys and the public defenders aren't scrambling around so that we can accommodate their schedules,” 20th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson said. 

MacElroy said she believes there could be more people headed back to jail if they paid their bail and the offense falls under the serious and violent category and is concerned about possible overcrowding at jails that are already over capacity.

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