SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a state law ending cash bail, ordering it to be implemented in mid-September.
The ruling overturns a Kankakee County judge’s opinion in December that the law violated the constitution’s provision that “all persons shall be bailed by sufficient sureties.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis delivered the court’s opinion, approved 5-2, saying the constitution ‘does not mandate that monetary bail be the only way to ensure defendants appear in court. for trials or the only way to protect the public”.
The Democratic-dominated General Assembly approved the plan in January 2021 as part of a sweeping overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system known as the SAFE-T Act. This followed the killings of George Floyd involving police in Minnesota the previous spring.
The Kankakee County judge’s decision did not block the implementation of the law, which was to take effect on January 1, 2023. The decision referred the matter directly to the Supreme Court, which stopped its implementation while promising a quick resolution.
Theis ordered that the law stop be lifted 60 days after Tuesday’s notice, September 18, 2023.
Proponents of eliminating cash bail describe it as a punishment for poverty, suggesting that the wealthy can pay to get out of jail to await trial while those in economic distress must sit behind bars.
In the spring of 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Pretrial Practices strongly endorsed bail reform, noting that it concluded that a defendant who cannot afford bail sees his life collapse within days – job loss, loss of child custody, health issues without access to medication.
Additionally, the commission found that it tended to generate bogus plea agreements. The defendants explain that pleading for a lower level offense gets them out of jail sooner.
Critics have argued that bail is an age-old way of ensuring defendants released from prison show up for court proceedings.
This story has been updated to correct the Chief Justice’s name to Mary Jane Theis, not Mary Ann.