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Ending Cash Bail Doesn't Increase Crime: Report

Don Stemen and David Olson, Loyola University in Chicago

Ending cash bail doesn't lead to an increase in crime, according to a new report from researchers at Loyola University Chicago. The report examined a 2017 order from Cook County Chief Justice Timothy Evans that halted a requirement for cash bail for felonies.

Don Stemen, chair of Loyola's Department of Criminal justice and Criminology and co-author of the report, said Evans' order "did not change new criminal activity."

"You can increase release without the use of monetary bail without having an impact on public safety," Stemen said. 

According to the report, criminal defendants in Cook County were spared from paying $31.5 million in cash bail over a six-month period after Evans' order no longer required bail in most felony cases, except in the most serious cases.

Those savings are important, Stemen said, because most people involved in the criminal justice system are in poverty.

“Ending cash bail would diminish the burden on defendants and their families, and it would have no impact on the public safety in the community,” Stemen said.

The report states there was a significant increase in the use of "I-Bonds" (individual released with monetary bail), from 26% of defendants receiving I-Bonds before Evans signed the order to 57% receiving I-Bonds after the order.

"The impact of this shift was dramatic – 3,559 additional people received an I-Bond in the six months after … the order than would have if these rates had remained unchanged," according to the report.

The report acknowledges that opponents of bail reform "may continue to argue that reducing the use of monetary bail and increasing the number of people released pretrial will result in more defendants committing more crimes while on pretrial release."

"But that is not what happened following bail reform in Cook County, consistent with experiences following bail reform in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia," according to the report.

Law enforcement officials in Ilinois have said the proposal needs more study. State Sen. Robert Peters earlier this month introduced a bill to end cash bail, though the cancelation of the General Assembly's fall Veto Session has pushed efforts to pass the legislation into 2021.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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