Oct 7, 2022 - Politics

What Chicagoans think about eliminating cash bail

Illustration of the Chicago skyline with word balloons filled with exclamation points popping up over it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

We wrote about the end of cash bail in Illinois all this week and asked for your thoughts on the controversial issue.

  • Here are some of your insightful responses:

Jim H.: "I think we should beta it for two or three years. A more realistic approach for non violent offenders seems to be a win win. It could lower costs, increase fairness and leave offenders with the opportunity to maintain a calmer life."

Mike C.: "Sounds like a great plan, but I'm a little concerned about possible unintended consequences."

Daniel H.: "I'd love to see y'all dig deeper into how the reforms on cash bail would play into how the current system is running. We can't have moms waiting in jail for stealing diapers and formula, AND we cannot have repeat criminals allowed back on the streets after they commit any crime armed with deadly force (gun or otherwise)."

Adam G.: "My reaction after reading your series was: It only took us 500 years, but we're finally eliminating debtors' prisons!"

Mark P.: "We can all agree that there are many defendants who are a threat to society but the law does not give the judge discretion to hold them, cash bail or not. 'Clear and convincing evidence' is a high bar and the prosecutors are given 24 hours to gather the evidence and attempt to persuade the judge of the threat the defendant poses. This is an extremely difficult burden to meet under such tight time constraints."

  • "It's unfortunate that you have characterized this issue as 'liberal v. conservative' but that is the lazy fallback that many people take to preclude serious discussion about an important issue.

Jerry C.: "Ending cash bail will be a fair and good thing."

Jim F.: "Since the common phrase on local TV is 'no one is in custody yet' after reporting various crimes, I doubt if the new bail law will have much effect."

Thomas S.: "The no bail proposal makes perfect sense except that it relies on judges who are elected by an electorate that has little or no access to who these judges are. Every time we vote we are asked to vote for huge numbers of judges with no viable way to understand who these people are. And, we really don’t know the extent to which the decisions of these judges are constrained by Illinois law."

John R.: "Why are you letting J.B. Pritzker get away with a logical fallacy, and misericordiam, the appeal to sympathy, by partially quoting Pritzker in your newsletter? Here's the full quote, "We’re also addressing the problem of a single mother who shoplifted diapers for her baby who is put in jail and kept there for six months because she doesn’t have a couple of hundred dollars to pay for bail."

  • "The threshold for felonious theft in Illinois is $300. In Cook County, that level is $1,000, per Kim Foxx. Simply put, if the 'single mother' stole diapers, they would have to be worth a whole lot of money for her to be locked up, under current law.
  • "Why aren't you, and for that matter, the media, calling Pritzker on his statement? Who is being locked up for stealing diapers for six months to await trial?"

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