Oct 4, 2022 - News

The data on ending cash bail

Illustration of a handcuff in the shape of a circular arrow.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This January, Illinois will be the first state to end cash bail and replace it with hearings before a judge to decide who can await trial outside of jail.

  • As we wrote yesterday, some critics are predicting it will unleash a crime surge as more defendants go home before trial.

Reality check: Although thousands of additional people charged with certain offenses β€” but not convicted β€” will be eligible for pretrial release, these are largely the same people who could have gotten out by paying.

By the numbers: A Loyola University analysis of incarceration outcomes, conducted six months after Cook County enacted limited bail reforms in 2017, showed no effects on crime or rates of rearrest.

  • But it did find a 3 percentage point rise in failure to appear in court.
  • These existing Cook County bail reforms are expected to dull the local effect of the new statewide reforms.

What they're saying: Under the current system, "murderers and rapists and domestic abusers can buy their way out of jail," while a mom who shoplifts diapers and formula "is in danger of sitting in jail for months," Gov. JB Pritzker said during last Friday's debate.

The other side: "It is going to wreak havoc across this state,” GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey said in the debate. "It's the same havoc that’s taking place right now in the city of Chicago."

Zoom out: One Loyola University analysis of Illinois State Police data projects the new bail rules will result in more pre-trial jailing of people charged with serious crimes, but less jailing of people charged with lesser crimes.

The big picture: Research shows that holding someone in jail before trial increases likelihood of future rearrest because of the harm to the defendant's life and ability to work.

  • On the other hand, bail reforms "expose fewer people to the harms of incarceration that tends to elevate recidivism once they are inevitably released," Michael Rempel, director of the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College, tells Axios' Keldy Ortiz.

Yes, but: Rempel predicts "we won't truly know the Illinois law's effect on recidivism" until we see how the first year pans out.

What's next: Loyola University Chicago will work with the National Institute of Justice to study data from the first year of the program.

πŸ“¬ Tell us: After reading our cash bail stories β€” and absorbing a zillion ads about it β€” what do you think about that state's upcoming elimination of bail in favor of judge hearings?

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