A new law in Illinois will make it easier for lower-income individuals charged with violations to be released while awaiting trial.
The bill was signed Friday by Gov. Bruce Rauner and took effect immediately.
Until now, bail in Illinois often came down to money. An accused person who had it could be released while waiting for a court date. But those without funds would spend that time locked up. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said people should only be in jail if they’re dangerous or a flight risk.
“It undermines everything that we try to do legitimize our criminal justice system when we punish those simply because they are impoverished, and not those who are wealthy but still are a threat to others," she said.
The new law gives defendants the right to an attorney at bail hearings, guarantees that some people unable to post bail will have their case reviewed within seven days, and gives some people a $30 credit toward bail for every day spend in jail. It also says judges must try to set non-monetary conditions of release, such as electronic monitoring, curfews and drug counseling.
The Cook County Sheriff's Department says it doesn't expect the bill will significantly reduce the number of people in jail.
Activists say that requiring cash bail punishes the poor, and that the ability to post bail has no relation to whether a person is an actual threat.