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Report Measures Impact of Eliminating Cash Bail In Illinois

 Circuit Court Clerks in 95 Illinois Counties get about 11% of their general revenue fee  money from bond processing fees, according to analysis by the Chicago Civic Federation.
Circuit Court Clerks in 95 Illinois Counties get about 11% of their general revenue fee money from bond processing fees, according to analysis by the Chicago Civic Federation.

A new report from the Chicago Civic Federation shows most county circuit court clerks in Illinois will lose about 11% of their general fund fee revenue when cash bail is eliminated in 2023. Bond payments can go to a variety of things, including court-ordered fees, fines, restitution, and bond processing fees.

It's this last category that helps fund circuit clerk operations.

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According to a five-year analysis from the Chicago Civic Federation for a Pretrial Practices Implementation Task Force commissioned by the Illinois Supreme Court, the statewide total in bond processing fees ranged from about $4.9 million in 2020 to $14.9 million in 2016. Data was provided by 95 Illinois counties

The Civic Federation is an independent, non-partisan government research organization.

The findings focused on bond money processed and disbursed at the conclusion of a criminal case, and how clerks of circuit courts distribute those bond amounts — not money collected at pre-trial release. There was a total of $121.9 million in applied bond payments statewide last year. That figure is lower than usual because the pandemic allowed fewer cases to go through the system. In 2016, the total was $153.2 million.

Supporters of the elimination of cash bail said it penalizes poorer defendants disproportionately. The Civic Federation found that in the last five years, only 20% percent of total bond payments were refunded. On average over this period, 58% of bond payments were distributed to county-specific fees, while the remaining 42% of bonds applied to fees were directed to other state or municipal fees.

Illinois is the first state to completely remove the use of money in pretrial release procedures.

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