Nov 29, 2022 - News

Refining the SAFE-T Act during this week's veto session

Photo illustration of an open jail cell door, unlocked handcuffs, and a clock.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The Illinois General Assembly is expected to tweak a controversial bail provision in the "SAFE-T Act" during the final days of this week's veto session.

Why it matters: Called the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA), the provision ends cash bail. It was used to hammer Democrats as "soft on crime" during this year's midterm election cycle.

Details: With most veto session business done behind closed doors, we may not know what got changed until after the fact. But here are some provisions officials have cited as ripe for tweaks:

  • Tickets for trespassing: Critics of the PFA say requiring police to ticket rather than arrest people for certain misdemeanors could mean cops can't remove trespassers from property. PFA supporter and state Rep. La Shawn Ford told the Tribune, "I'll be advocating for clarity … so it's clear that they have the instructions through law to arrest people for trespassing."
  • Flight risk: Will County State's Attorney Jim Glasgow aired several objections to the PFA, including the inability for prosecutors to cite past failure to appear in court as evidence of potential flight risk when arguing for defendants to await trial in jail.
  • Danger to a person: The PFA currently requires a specific person to be named when determining whether the defendant should be jailed because they might pose a danger to the public. But at a PFA seminar this fall, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said that language is something that "we continue to talk about and is being worked out as we speak."

What we're watching: How many Republican lawmakers — especially those who insisted on a repeal rather than reform of the SAFE-T act — will participate in the tweaking process.

  • Although some PFA opponents claim it can't be fixed, GOP House Leader Jim Durkin told the Tribune this month, "If the Democrats wish to engage and find responsible changes to this law before it goes into effect, count me in. But I have not been asked over the past year to participate in any type of negotiations."

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