Feb 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Illinois becomes first state to sign law eliminating cash bail

 Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a press conference in Hall C Unit 1 of the COVID-19 alternate site at McCormick Place on Friday, April 3, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during an April press conference in Chicago. Photo: Chris Sweda-Pool via Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has signed sweeping criminal justice reform legislation this week that would end cash bail statewide by 2023.

Why it matters: Illinois is the first state to move to eliminate cash bail, which critics say is a "poor people's tax" that benefits the wealthy who can afford to post bail, and disproportionately affects people of color.

How it works: Under the new law, most defendants would be released while awaiting trial unless a judge rules otherwise, per Chicago's WGN9.

What they're saying: Pritzker said in a statement the legislation "marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice."

  • State Sen. Elgie Sims (D), a member of the Black Caucus that authored the bill signed by Pritzker Monday, said in a statement: "These reforms should merely be the first steps we take to transform criminal justice in Illinois."

The big picture: The bill also requires police in the state to wear body cameras, sets standards on use of force, crowd control responses, de-escalation, and arrest techniques, and eliminates license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees for some traffic offenses, among other measures.

  • The provisions are set to be phased in over four years from July 1.

The other side: State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement Tuesday the incoming laws were an "insult to our first responders, law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens of Illinois who want to be free from violence and destruction from the criminal element."

  • Ed Wojcicki, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, referred to reforms in a statement as the "anti-police bill."
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