Groups Call For An End To Pretrial Detention And Money Bond

Jul 16, 2019

Illinois groups against cash bond and pretrial detention rallied in Springfield last weekend to call for reform of pretrial practices.  

Margaret Tucker, of Springfield, joined several dozen advocates on a march to the Sangamon County Jail to share her family’s experience with the pretrial system. She said her son spent two years in jail in the 90s because her family could not afford to pay his bond. 

“What we would like to see is for the cash money bonds to be abolished, because it’s so unfair,” she said. “Especially if they want us to believe that in our democracy, you’re innocent until proven guilty.” 

In 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court formed the Commission on Pretrial Practices to review the state’s pretrial system. The commission is expected to release a final report with policy and legislative recommendations in December.

Sharlyn Grace, executive director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, along with 30 other community organizations, said they are using Saturday’s rally as a launching point to their statewide network, the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, to continue pushing for change while the commission finalizes its report. 

The network will be used to facilitate statewide coordination, said Grace. “And making sure that our interests as communities across the state are not being pitted against each other. And that we don’t have other people speaking for different communities, because we have the communities here speaking for themselves.” 

She said the groups hope the commission’s suggestions are clear-cut and offer a pathway to ending cash bond and pretrial detention. 

“What we know about money bond, is that it’s something that the courts do out of habit,” Grace said. “It’s not based in evidence.” Grace said money bond and pretrial detention disproportionately hurt people of color and those experienceing poverty. 

Bail reform has been attempted in the past. An Illinois law signed in 2017, known as the Bail Reform Act, encourages judges to consider the finances of the accused when setting a bail amount. Advocates said it’s a start, but does not do much to eliminate the practice. 

Meanwhile, local community leaders like Margaret Tucker, said they will continue to educate stakeholders on the issue. 

“Today the question becomes – ‘Will our justice system continue to turn a blind eye, using a money bail system that takes away our life and our liberty?’” Tucker said to the group of organizers outside the Sangamon County jail on Saturday. 

“Or will our justice system uphold the Declaration of Independence and abolish the money bail system?”